Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monday Memories - The Christmas Lights

Last night for family home evening Calvin and I went Christmas and Reunion grocery shopping.  We stopped on our way to pay our neighbor for the hay he delivered last week, and talked to his wife who was putting the final touches on their yard decorations. It's the first time their little granddaughter has come to their home for Christmas, and due to deployments and life, the first time their family has been together for Christmas in 8 years.  She said, "I want my little granddaughter to remember Grandma's house at Christmas."  There is a lit nativity in one corner of the yard, a lit Santa riding a tractor in another, candles and carolers under the trees by the driveway, and a host of other lights and decorations as well.  No doubt, her little granddaugher will remember seeing the Christmas lights at Grandma's. 

"Remember seeing the Christmas lights" reminded me of the year Abe was 17 years old and Ty was 16.  They couldn't think of a gift to give to their 86-year-old friend Bernice.  The boys had known Bernice for a year or two and had helped trim her rose bushes, administered the Sacrament to her in her home, and given her rides to church.  Sometimes they just went to visit her.  Bernice's grandson, Kyle, played football for the Saints and she had stories . . . and Saints gear.

But it was Christmas time and the boys couldn't think of a gift to give her. Bernice was allergic to poinsettias, made very good candy of her own, didn't need more perfume, and her small, one-bedroom home had enough trinkets. They were at a loss as to what to give her. They finally decided to take her on a drive to see the Christmas lights around town and then to Burger King for a hamburger afterwards.  

The day came.  It had been hectic and they considered calling to see if they could reschedule.  They decided to just go.  They put on some nice clothes and went to pick her up.     

The boys weren't gone very long - probably just over an hour - and I was surprised, and worried, they were home so soon.  They came into the family room and quietly sat down on the couch.  Both boys just sat there, not saying anything.  

I asked them how it had gone.  One said, “Good,” and the other, “Really good.”  They didn't offer any more information.

Finally, after a few minutes and lots of questions, they shared a few details. 

When they got to Bernice's home to pick her up, she was dressed in her best.  Though she'd been ill and housebound for some time, she had her daughter put on her make-up and fix her hair.  Lynn, her daughter, told the boys that even though Bernice didn't feel very good that day, she had insisted on getting ready and had been sitting and waiting on the couch that afternoon for the hour and the boys to come.    

Abe said, "She was so excited to see us," and had let them know through her eyes and labored breathing. The boys helped her get into the car and Abe drove while Ty sat in the back.  Bernice visited a little with them as they drove and looked at the decorated homes.  She tired sooner than they expected and she thought she probably ought to go back home.  She declined the hamburger saying she just didn't feel well enough. They took her home, then came home themselves.    

That was all.  It wasn't dramatic.  They didn't go get a hamburger themselves, nor did they feel like they'd conquered Everest.  They didn't want to go do something else with friends that evening.  They just quietly sat there.  Then Ty's eyes filled with tears and he said, "She was just so excited to go with us.  She'd been waiting for us."

Bernice died less than a month later and both boys sat on the front row at her funeral.  That was eight years ago, but I'll bet neither boy - now men - will ever forget seeing the lights with Bernice and how important she made them feel.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Life in Our World - Sixteen for 12 of '13

Grace - Today I am 31 weeks and 7 months pregnant. 2 months to go!

Abe - Quick dinner before a long night of training.  It's a lame picture but they won't let us take
pictures of what we're doing.

Afton - Things to note in this picture: a crib stripped of bedding,
the laundry basket, the garbage can next to the bed, Sesame Street on the computer,
and the little girl who is actually holding still.

Eliza - This little gem chose a good time to fall asleep without help--
her sick sister was running around wet and naked and took a higher priority
at the moment.

 Michelle - Today I am grateful for cell phones (which I luckily had on me)
and that we have a maintenance office nearby with a spare key.

Ty - "I'm so glad when daddy comes home..."

Zeph - I'm in my crib ironically, I didn't actually take a nap today.
Good thing I'm cute and happy!

Ande - First night in our new house! Joe didn't want to be in the picture,
but his thumb did.

Joe - This is what a lot of mornings look like.

Calvin - cooking 14 pork shoulders and 14 gallons of beans for the Spanish Branch Christmas Party.
(Jane speaking here.  Ohhhh, it was good.  The meat was incredible, and Calvin was happy
because he could put as many jalapenos in the beans and as much cayenne pepper in the meat rub
as he wanted and I couldn't say once, "Now remember, Calvin, people might not like their food
as hot as you do and you're cooking for a group."
He made the "pulled pork" by attaching a little metal plate that he had welded onto his power drill.
Then he put the barbecued meat, one roast at a time, into a pan and drilled the fire out of it.
Wa-la: pulled pork.
A chicken plucker, one day, and a pork puller the next - he's handy folks.  He's handy.)

Jane - At the branch party.

Levin - Pretending he's a baby. He's asleep in the crib tonight too...
not sure why... just regressing I guess.

Atlas - a good one

Ray - Work is fun, right?

Cali - Atlas has a new bed-mate. They were having a great time until
I busted up the party... and separated them into different rooms

Ray - Our Christmas tree decorated just how I like it. Pre-lit and no ornaments.

Life in Our World - Instantly.

jcpayne62  5 hours of church today.  Just ended it at the Russian
church service and a potluck birthday party.  Sava ate of many plates.
He ate most of the frosting off mine before his grandma scolded him
and made him eat off hers instead

jcpayne62  The elf and I had 60 sausage mcmuffins ready by 6:00 am

jcpayne62  The lake is mostly frozen, but the geese are crammed into
the one spot that isn't.

jcpayne62   Feliz Navidad.

jcpayne62  114th Army-Navy Game

jcpayne62   I think even God got the memo that pink is the new
red for Christmas

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday Memories - Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come

Sometimes we left the horses up in the hills on the summer range until after Christmas. One Christmas Eve afternoon, Dad said he was running up to the hills to feed the horses some hay and invited me along. We drove for an hour up the rutted, drifted roads to the pasture.  When the horses saw the pick-up loaded with hay, they came running. Shorty (our horse that was born on a day so cold that it froze his ears off), led the herd.  He often did.  He always snorted and held his nubbin-eared head high.  He did not lack for confidence.  The rest of the horses stamped and kicked and waited for us to throw the hay over the fence.  They were really glad to see us.

After we fed the horses, Dad said we ought to stop by Wally and Alvin’s to wish them a Merry Christmas. Mom had sent something to give them, probably a loaf of Christmas bread or a bowl of caramels -- her Christmas trademarks.

Wally and Alvin were two old ranchers that lived at the base of the hills far from anyone. Wally, the father, and Alvin, his son, had a three-legged, hairless dog named Happy. Their home was a squared-log home with white chinking.  A generator in the back yard provided their electricity.  Wally, Alvin and Happy were glad whenever our family dropped by and the routine was always the same. They greeted us at the backdoor. Wally would yell at Happy to shut-up and Alvin to get the door and let us in.  We'd follow them through a cleared path on the porch (walking around any sick, baby calves that might be there), past the old cook-stove in the kitchen with a cast-iron frying pan of cold bacon grease, and into the sitting room. The sitting room had a pull-string light with a foil pie pan underneath the bulb. Candy orange slices, orange circus peanuts, chocolate covered cherries, or toasted coconut marshmallows sat on the oilcloth covered table beside the newspapers, magazines, and a tin of Wally’s asthma medicine.  He wheezed really bad.

Wally always took his seat in the green leather rocking chair while Alvin sat in a straight-backed chair by the table. Dad would draw a chair next to Wally and visit with him about cows and cattle prices and the neighbors. We kids sat near Alvin, who never said a word. He had red rimmed eyes that always looked sad.  Occasionally Alvin would bashfully nod when Wally said something to him, and sometimes he even smiled, but most of the time he just sat there, painfully shy. We sat equally as quiet. At some point in the visit Wally would remind Alvin to give us candy so he would carefully pass around the candy of the day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on this Christmas Eve visit, it was pretty much like the many other visits we made to them, but when I think of Christmas Past, I think of our visit to Wally and Alvin and the horses . . . and how glad they were to see us.

Christmas Present will bring everyone together this year.  We've rented a home half way between here and Seattle where we will celebrate.  The home has enough rooms so that sleeping babies can sleep and waking babies can play, with a sledding hill and an indoor pool nearby.  It sounds like a perfect place for five little people two years old and under, and ten big people 25 years plus . . . we can hardly wait to see each other.  
Christmas Yet to Come is only in my imagination, but judging from Christmas Past and Christmas Present  the biggest part of Christmas Yet to Come will be the gathering and . . . being real glad to see everyone.

I imagine the shepherds, angels, Mary, and Joseph were all really glad to finally see the Savior on that first Christmas.  There had been a lot of anticipation building, people had waited 4,000 years for Him to come. It's been 2,000 years since that incredible night and now we anxiously wait for His return.  I wonder how we'll celebrate when He comes again?  What songs will we sing*?  What foods will we bake?  What colors will we decorate with?  I'm not sure, but one thing I do know . . . we'll be real glad to see Him.

[*By the way.  Did you know that Joy to the World was originally a Second Coming song?  One day someone said, "Hey.  All we have to do is change 'the Lord will come' to 'the Lord is come' and then we can have one more carol in the hymnal to sing before Christmas.  Next time you sing it, think of it as a Second Coming song and see if it doesn't make more sense.]


Sunday, December 8, 2013

52 Blessings - Mother Earth

In the scriptures, Enoch recorded that he heard the earth mourn:

"And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying:  Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children.  When shall I rest and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?  When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?"

"And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept . . ."  (Moses 7:48-49)

That is one of the things I thought of as I watched this video that a friend shared on Facebook.  The other thing I thought of is what an amazing thing the Earth is and I don't want to make her cry.  And the last thing I thought of is why would anybody ever boast about who they are, the home they built, or on which side of the tracks they live?  Our accomplishments and brick and mortars are nothing comparatively and squatters rights anyplace on Earth is a blessing and a privilege.

Life in Our World - Six for Saturday


I almost didn't put up a Christmas tree, our little collection of nativities, or any other Christmas decorations again.  I'm definitely not anti-Christmas just practical, and putting up all the decorations didn't seem practical if we weren't going to be here for Christmas.

Calvin and I put up a little, free sagebrush for our first Christmas because it was our first house and we wanted it to feel like a home.  For the next 28 years it was easy to put up and decorate a tree for the kids' sakes.  But the last few years my enthusiasm has waned and finally last year it seemed like too much work to do just for me -- no kids or grandkids would be here in the month of December and we were going to Seattle for Christmas anyway -- so I didn't bother decorating.  It felt a bit empty all month, but it was certainly more convenient and cleaner.

Last Sunday, Calvin said, "Let's put up a tree this year or we're going to get in a bad habit and never put one up again."  While "let's" is supposed to mean "let us", we both knew he really meant let'u.  And so I did. When I put the Christmas decorations up for Calvin, it made all the difference.  It put all the fun right back into Advent and every evening when I turn the lights on before he comes home for supper, the magic returns. Duh. Christmas is about serving others.  


I sat in the dentist chair this week for two hours and couldn't help but think about Jesus.  Somewhere, sometime when I was a teenager I heard a man say that the nerves leading to our teeth are about the diameter of a pin while the nerves leading to and in our hands are about as thick as pencils.  (I have no idea if this is true, all I know is that he said it and I remember it.)  He reminded us of how it feels when a nerve to the tooth is hit and then said, "When they nailed the Savior to the cross and they put the nails through his hands and wrists, can you imagine what it felt like when they hit those nerves?"  This week as I sat staring up at the ceiling and wincing in the dentist's chair, I asked myself over and over, "How did He do it?"  Christmas carols played the entire time and it was really very comforting.  Much more so than if songs about cheaters, broken-hearts, and hatin' your mamma had been playing.  From now on, I'm making my dentist appointments for December so when the nerves the size of a pin get hit, there is perspective and solid songs to get me through it.  


In seminary the kids and I made Christmas countdown chains with acts of service written on the links.  Each day it's been fun to hear what the kids are doing, especially those who have taken it to heart. It's also been fun to specifically plan and look for opportunities to serve.  I have hesitated to share my list for it could easily be interpreted to appear as the pharisees gloating to the public as they dropped their alms into the treasury.  I really don't want to be a pharisee, not even for Halloween, but I'll risk appearing that because of a blogger named Jenny.  A few years ago Jenny set the goal to do an act of service every day for the whole year. She wrote in the smallest letters possible, and even without complete sentences, at the end of each post the thing that she had done for the day. That was often my favorite part of Jenny's posts and I learned much reading what she did.  Day after day, she wrote and it soon became apparent that it was many things that lifted others, not just big, significant acts. I admired Jenny's courage to post the service she gave even if it could be wrongly interpreted and was grateful she shared her ideas.  Here I am, not-so-bravely sharing mine [and, in parenthesis, some of the things I'm learning] in hopes that they might help someone like Jenny's helped me.

~Warmed up two paper plates of leftover mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy and took it to a friend who was working.  We ate lunch together.

~Said every kind thought that popped into my head for a whole afternoon

~Did family history and found three children in the 1920 census that hadn't been accounted for in my great-aunt's family.  

~Made a big crockpot of ham and beans for a family with four children who live in a house trailer and no running water. With the windchill, it's been below 0 much of the week.  Our friend had never seen a crockpot so I told her to keep it.  She was so happy that she would now be able to make hot soup for her kids to wake up to for breakfast.

~Sent a note and a candy bar to a girl at the high school who is scared and lonely.  Sent it with another girl so that the lonely girl would have contact from two people.

~Put up the Christmas tree for Calvin

(I learned this week that a well-timed gift is often more important than a new one.  Had I waited to make a fresh meal or buy a new crock-pot I would have missed opportunities.)


He did it!  He finally did it!  Calvin and Abe made bacon last weekend and it came out of its brine-smoking-sitting this week.  It's perfect.  Calvin has finally created a recipe that can be duplicated and every. batch. taste. good.  


I made a batch of cinnamon suckers for seminary this week.  Cough.  Sputter.  Spit.  Though they were cute (bright red with cake decorations in the shapes of wreaths, Santas, and trees on the front of them), they were hot.  Too hot.  One student took a lick and said, "Ohhhhh, spicy!"  Another said, "Hey, I'm Mexican. I do hot."  Then he took another lick and said, "But this is hot.  Even for me."  None of them could keep them in their mouths. I had them dip them in cups of water as they ate them just like I used to when I was a kid and our kids did when they were kids and a batch was too hot.  While it's fun to eat suckers dipped in water, I need to make more so as to remember exactly how much cinnamon oil is too much.


The week ended on a perfect note.  These two couples went to the temple for the first time last night and had their marriages solemnized. Several of us from the Spanish Branch went to celebrate and be with them.  It was an incredible event.  Really incredible.

And then, per Spanish Branch tradition, we went to a Chinese buffet afterwards.  Which reminds me of a story:  Cali was five years old and we had moved to a new school district in the middle of the year.  Her new best friend was a little boy named Transito.  One day Cali was telling Abe, who was three, about Transito. Abe asked, "What do Mexicans eat?"  Cali said, "I don't know."  She thought for a minute and then said, "Chinese food I think."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Memories - An Invitation

Each year Don and Sandy Tucker make a different nativity to give to
friends, and lucky for us, we have received several of them.
Each is unique, loved, and anticipated.
Tonight they brought us Nativity 2013.  

When the invitations were sent to join in the Savior’s birth, angels personally delivered the message to the shepherds, and the wise men were summoned by a star. That both ends of the social spectrum were invited has deep symbolism: no one is excluded from the invitation to come to the Savior. He taught that the way to be near Him is to serve. Whether wealthy or impoverished, as demonstrated by the shepherds and wise men, we have all been invited to bring a gift to the Savior.

Charlie’s farm was just across the gravel road from us in Idaho. Charlie wasn’t very tall and he had a big barrel chest. He liked to wear wool, plaid shirts. One fall day his forty-something-year-old son knocked on our door and asked me if I knew of anyone who would be willing to help Charlie. As an eighty-year-old widower with increasing health problems, Charlie needed someone to do light housework, his laundry, and cook a daily meal for him. His son promised it wouldn’t be much work and Charlie was willing to pay a fair wage.

With all of our kids in school it was the perfect job for me, so every day after getting my own housework done I’d walk over to Charlie’s. One man in a wheelchair doesn’t make much of a mess, so Charlie and I had lots of time to visit. In fact, I think that was the main reason I was hired. I had known Charlie as an acquaintance all my life. He was a friend of my father’s. I knew he was a successful farmer and cattleman and that he had a long list of accomplishments. I also knew he had several hobbies, one of which was collecting Winchester rifles. He had every Winchester rifle ever made along with the ammunition for it. I think every Boy Scout in Southern Idaho had seen Charlie’s collection at least once, and that is why it made perfect sense for Charlie to keep a loaded pistol on the dinner table covered with a paper napkin. While it scared me to death to wash under it every day, afraid it would discharge and shoot him or me, with a famed basement full of guns and Charlie’s declining mobility, he was literally a sitting duck. The loaded gun on the table and the other one under his bed pillow were for self-defense.

One day as Charlie and I visited, he said there was one thing he wished he had done in his life and he felt badly that he wouldn’t get it done before he died. He wanted to write his personal history. Having taken a class on personal histories in college I told him I could help him cross that item off his list. We made a makeshift desk in the living room from a card table and a folding chair, found an old typewriter, and pulled out his stash of pictures. Using questions I’d received in class to guide our discussion, I began to interview him and record his answers. To the question: “Describe your mother,” he thought for a few moments, stroked his chin, and said, “Well, she could cultivate a fine crop of whiskers which was always a nuisance to her.”

Charlie told of his baptism in a horse trough but how the whole family quit going to church when the little branch closed. He retold the scrapes he and his brother got in, and stories of other early settlers in the area. He loved reminiscing and I enjoyed hearing and recording his memories.

One day a few weeks before Christmas I told Charlie we wouldn’t be able to work on his history that afternoon because I needed to go Christmas shopping. After his noon meal – he ate promptly at 12:00 noon - I put on my coat and he handed me a card. I opened it when I got outside and it had a $100 bill in it. It was signed, “Merry Christmas. Charlie” and then on the other side it said, “I’ve never known a woman that couldn’t use an extra $100 when she went shopping.” He probably knew how needed and appreciated it was, but it still makes me want to cry thinking about it. Charlie needed me and I needed Charlie.

Nearly every day for six weeks we worked on Charlie’s history, and each day it became harder for him to get around. He scooted in his wheelchair and it took him a long time to move from room to room. His neck was calcifying and putting pressure on his spine. Doctors explained he would become paralyzed if he didn’t have surgery to remove the pressure. They agreed the surgery was risky, but it beat being paralyzed. The doctors scheduled the operation a week before Christmas.

Charlie and I worked faster and longer to get his history done; in fact we finished it the day he went to the hospital. Charlie had two sons who farmed nearby and one or the other would often join us for lunch, but on the day Charlie entered the hospital they both came. Charlie requested I cook the rest of the salmon and snow peas in the freezer for everyone. Because his mobility lessened a little more each day, I could see it was a surprise to his sons that he was now no longer feeding himself an entire meal. As Charlie struggled on the last few bites, I carefully took his hand and helped him chase the peas onto his fork. After the dishes were cleared away, I reminded Charlie we had one little piece of his history left to write and then it would be finished, complete with photographs. The son who was taking him to the hospital sat at the table while we finished. The final thing was to write Charlie’s last wishes and funeral plans. If I thought his son was uncomfortable seeing Charlie spoon fed, it was definitely painful for him to hear funeral plans being made, and he squirmed in the chair. However Charlie insisted we continue and he outlined his funeral, complete with speakers and songs. After we finished we bundled Charlie up and put a little wool blanket over his legs and wheeled him to the car. I finished the chores, locked the door, and quietly walked home.

I went to see Charlie in the hospital the next day and he informed me the surgery had been postponed because “the part didn’t come in.” He made it sound like the implement store was out of tractor parts. After we visited a bit I told him I’d return the following day after the surgery.

The next day was our daughter’s birthday. She had turned eight and was being baptized. We drove the many miles to town and after her sweet baptismal service I told the family I needed to stop and see Charlie on the way home. By now, all of the family felt a connection to Charlie – the kids had taken left-overs to him at suppertime, gone to take his trash out, finish a chore for him on my days off, or seen his gun collection. They patiently waited in the car while I went in to the hospital. Charlie was recovering in the intensive care unit and alone. None of his family happened to be there at the moment so I went to his bedside and began talking to him. He was mostly incoherent, but in great distress and discomfort. He was groaning and mildly thrashing about. I stroked his hair and talked to him as if he could understand me and he calmed down. Knowing my family would be anxious to finish celebrating our daughter’s birthday, I stayed with him for several minutes then carefully kissed his head when I left.

Not long after we returned home the phone rang. It was Charlie’s son saying that Charlie had passed away a few minutes after I’d left him. I was humbled to have spent those final minutes with him.

Like the shepherds and wise men, Charlie and I were from both ends of the social spectrum. Charlie had lived long, gathered sound advice, and built financial reserves. He was a wise man with much to give. I was a young wife and mother herding a little family with a few homemaking and typing skills to share. I was the shepherd with little to give. Yet we were both issued and accepted an invitation to follow the Savior by serving our fellowman. Whether we had a lot or a little didn't matter, it was enough when we shared it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Life in Our World - A Blur

That's what November was.  A blur.  And here are the blurry pictures to prove it . . .

Calvin and I met up with Abe, Grace, Cali, and Ray in Seattle to attend the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert.  My favorite performer was the fiddler whose bow was in shreds by the time the night was over, but the very best part was enjoying it with family.

I went to the dentist.  I really don't like going so, per tradition, consoled myself with a milkshake. From the sounds of it, I have several milkshakes in my near future.

Each one of these young women are inspirational in their own right.  They are forging paths heretofore untraveled by their family members.  Jessica (in the back) can play four instruments - well.  She recently performed with the state's honors band in first chair.  Vanessa (right) is not only musically but mathematically inclined.  I believe she is will be the first to attend college in her family.  Karen (left), as does Jessica, carries huge responsibilities in her family.  Huge.  It's quite amazing seeing their successes.  

One of the nights that Calvin was in charge of Family Home Evening he fixed us Jamaican-jerked-chicken with coconut-milk-rice mixed with black beans.  It was really good.  We also went to one of his scout's basketball games.  In eighth grade those boys play so much better than I ever played as a senior in high school.  They are fast, coordinated, and jump high.  The score was 15-0 within the first few minutes.

Went to work day after day after day.  I really do have one of the best jobs.  I teach religion to high school and college kids.  The early morning class meets at the college (where this picture was taken), the other classes at the seminary building next to the high school.  

Rearranging is a quick fix to old problems.  We moved this old, old couch out and moved a piece of the sectional from the family room into its place. This has been a month of rearranging furniture, but we're done now.  I think.  

We went birthday shopping for Calvin.  He is such a particular shopper that I had time to wander the whole store before he'd made his four choices.  Three of the four choices have orange in them.

One night for Young Women's we made party favors for the ward Thanksgiving Dinner - 160 of them.  I thoroughly enjoy talking to and working with these young women.

The weekend we went to Seattle to see the TSO, I babysat Atlas and Levin while Cali, Ray, Abe, Grace, and Calvin went to a movie.  I asked Levin if he wanted to help me make meatloaf for supper.  He ran and got his stool out and put it next to the cupboard and then opened the drawer and pulled out these bowl toppers.  I put one on his head for fun and he made us both wear them as a hairnet the whole time we cooked.  Our heads were good and sweaty by the time that meatloaf was cooked.

This ham was over a year in the making.  No foolin'.  After we raised and butchered the pig, Calvin made one hind quarter into a country ham (country ham is the name for a salt-cured ham that ages for several months to a few years).  After Calvin had salt-cured the meat, he hung it in a flour sack from a hook in the food storage room and it's hung there since September 2012.

It was good.  So very good.  Especially when you'd get a bite of the salty ham with some crusted brown sugar.  He'll be making more.

Abe and Grace came and spent the holiday with us.  Last year Abe was still deployed in Afghanistan, so we were especially glad to be together this year.  Besides eating, we've had several great discussions, played Hearts every night (loser has to buy milkshakes tonight and so far Calvin is buying), gone to the temple, and watched Ender's Game.  Today Grace and I are scrapbooking while Calvin and Abe are curing bacon, making cheese, skinning antelope heads, and doing odds and ends projects.

It's been foggy the past few weeks.  I see it as a winter wonderland, but Calvin sees it as hell frozen over. So glad we have each other to provide balance in our lives.

I continued to improve my chalkboard art.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Tried It - Gobble

This was a cute and easy Pinterest project.  I filled little orange gift sacks with caramel corn and attached the two tags with baker's twine.  Quick, fun to give, and inexpensive.

Links to the tags:



Sunday, November 17, 2013

52 Blessings - Mrs. Roberts

3rd Grade:
Back Row L-R:  Mrs. Roberts, me, Erik, Dusty, Bryce, Brad, George, Alan
Front Row L-R:  Anita, Aaron, Judy, David, Anita, Tamara, Starla, Theresa

4th Grade
Back Row L-R:  Aaron, David, Alan, Dusty, Brad, Erik, Bryce, Wesley, Mrs. Roberts
Front Row L-R: Tamara, Starla, Carlene, Charlotte, Judy, Anita, Jane, Anita

Mrs. Roberts was my third and fourth grade teacher.  We put our heads on our desks after lunch recess and listened while she read E.B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder books to us.  Since she was my teacher two years in a row, I heard Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, Trumpeter of the Swan, and all of the Little House Books (in their entirety) twice.  To this day, I think E.B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder are two of the greatest children's authors.

While our school supply list in first grade included crayons, Big Chief tablets, #2 pencils, Prang watercolors, and white paste, by the time we entered Mrs. Roberts’ room she said we were old enough for Elmer’s glue. We quickly proved our maturity by making fake fingernails with it. Starla taught us how. We turned our black tin of Prang watercolor paints over so that we had a long, smooth surface, and then spread a thin layer of glue across it. We slid the tin of paints carefully into our desks and let the glue dry for a day or two. When there were no white spots left and the glue was completely dry, we cut oblong shapes from it that fit over our fingernails. We cut a few terrifically-long ones as well as regular-long ones. We licked the back of each glue shape and attached them to our fingernails. This kept us busy many recesses.  Mrs. Roberts never scolded us or told us we couldn't make fingernails.  She just told us to make sure we cleaned up our mess.

Mrs. Roberts always grew enough Halloween pumpkins for her classes and some years she grew enough for every child in the school.  Mr. Roberts chopped down Christmas trees for our classrooms from the nearby hills, and Mrs. Roberts was in charge of much of The Christmas Play props at the Hollister School.  There is a reason The Christmas Play is all capitalized.  It was a very big deal.  And so were the props.  The year our class was snowflakes, Mrs. Roberts cut giant paper snowflakes to fit over our clothes and glittered them generously.  They stapled them the night of the play.

Mrs. and Mr. Roberts had cats, but they didn't have any children of their own.  They lived in a large, two story home out in the country.  I was always secretly glad that Mrs. Roberts only had us students. Selfish of me, I know, but I wanted her to like teaching us as much as we liked her teaching us.  She didn't have favorites (though she did have one student that riled her occasionally).

When Mrs. Roberts' mother died, Mrs. Crockett was our substitute.  Mrs. Crockett tried to teach us long division.  That was a mistake.  We needed Mrs. Roberts.  When she came back to school, I tried to tell her so.  I told Mrs. Roberts I was sorry her mom died, but hoped she looked at the bright side of things and realized she wouldn't have had so many pretty flowers if her mother was still alive.  It came out all wrong and not at all like I planned. Mrs. Roberts looked at me and laughed her funny laugh and said, "You're right," and then she looked at the bouquet of flowers sitting on the windowsill of the classroom and said, "These are very pretty flowers and I wouldn't have them if mother was still alive."

I woke up this morning thinking of Mrs. Roberts.  She's long gone now, but I do hope she knows what a blessing she was to me in my life.  I wrote a letter telling her so, but I'm not sure she got it while her mind was still alert.  Her happy laugh is a pleasant memory and her second-mile service and patience are still an example to me. Children were safe in her classroom.  I hope she knew I appreciated that.

Good teachers are blessings that never quit giving.

Mrs. Roberts gave us Happiness is a Warm Puppy by Charles Schulz.
I still have it on the shelf and read it to my classes.

What is the name of your teacher that had a positive impact on you?


Saturday, November 16, 2013

To Clara, Levin, Afton, Zeph, Atlas, Eliza, and the ones to come . . .

Thank you for coming to our family . . .

. . . and to your parents, thank you for getting them here.

Life in Our World - Five for Friday


The homemade cheese press with Calvin studying the cheese book in the background.

a block of Colby cheese

Calvin has been making cheese.  One of the things that I love and appreciate about Calvin is he gets an idea and runs with it.  When he finds something that interests him, he reads books and watches u-tube videos until he figures it out, then he does it.  If you dissected Calvin's brain you'd find a file for making black powder guns and another one for making long-bows.  You'd find others filled with butchering, curing meats, and stuffing sausages, knife-making, making cedar chests, tanning hides, growing grapes, and raising quail.  The infamous whizz-bang chicken plucker took up two files.  There's a whole file called how-to-make-your-wife-happy with a remember-to-clean-the-kitchen-when-you're-done paper in it that is stained and dog-eared.  Once in a while that paper gets misfiled, but then I find it for him and he works on that for awhile.

This week Calvin made four batches of cheese.  Two of the cheeses are still curing, but the other two are really good.  


The strawberry plants have turned their last color.

The trees are almost bare.  

The lawnmower died.



Yesterday this bird hopped into the corner on the patio.  It just happened to be under the dryer vent.  We turned it on to help him warm up.  That's all he seemed to need.  After a little while, he flew away. Sometimes an unexpected boost of encouragement is just what you didn't know you needed.

This past week or two I got some good mail and each package and letter warmed me through and made me smile real big.  One was a several-paged letter from a former student telling me of some big changes he'd made in his attitude and thanking me for being his mentor and friend.  Another was some lipstick from Ande.  Melanie sent some Book of Mormon flannel-board stories along with some colored straws and a shiny treat.  Jill sent me a happy "Happy Fall" card with 16 cute treat bags that I can't wait to use.  Nesha ordered me an amaryllis bulb in a ceramic pot with a red cardinal on it.  What fun each piece of mail was.  They all came on different days so I smiled all week long.  It was a mother-load of mail.      


For Family Home Evening on Monday night we took some frosted banana bars to a veteran to thank him for his service.  We also canned sugar for our food storage.  (We have a husband and wife in our Stake who keep a one-gallon canning machine in their garage.  Every month they encourage people to come and use it. They pick up the cans and have everything ready, plus help you can it.  It's an incredible and unheralded act of service they consistently do.)  We ended the evening by going out to supper to celebrate Veteran's Day and to thank Calvin for being a veteran.


It's been a routine week and I like routine.  Sometimes I feel a change in the air, figuratively, and it makes me more grateful than ever that I have Calvin, our family, grandkids, a warm home with cheese curing on the cupboard and cans of sugar on the shelf . . . and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that gives purpose to it all and holds everything together for me.

Speaking of change and perspective, I went to the eye doctor this week and ordered new glasses.  Ahhhh, to see clearly again.  I've never worn a pair quite like these will be.  I'm excited for them to come in.

How about you?  Did you have a routine week, too?