Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Memories—Memorials

Calvin pointing out the names of friends who died in Viet Nam

You’d have to be made of granite not to feel the reverence at the sacrifice of others as you seem their names on a wall or walk among thousands of graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

Abe, Grace, Calvin  Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (2009)

You’d have to have no conscience to not feel respect and admiration for the many soldiers who have taken care of us through the years.

Since I’m not made of granite and and have a conscience that’s why I want to be an Arlington Lady someday.  “Arlington Ladies” are a group of women who volunteer to make sure each funeral service in Arlington National Cemetery is attended. There are approximately thirty military funerals held a day at Arlington and an Arlington Lady attends each one. The group was formed when an officer in the Air Force and his wife attended an airman’s burial and saw that only a chaplain and an honor guard were present. It made them sad he had no one there representing him personally, so they formed their group so that no soldier would ever be buried alone. Each Arlington Lady volunteers at least one day a month and attends four or five funerals during that day—humidity, rain, snow, or shine. They dress elegantly, often wearing a hat and gloves, and stand off to the side. The Arlington Ladies aren’t there to mourn, but to honor and show respect. As one said, “It doesn’t matter whether we are burying a four-star general or a private, they all deserve to have someone say thank you at their grave.”

I would love to be an Arlington Lady. It would be an honor. And I can promise you Calvin would drive me to every funeral and wait in the wings until it was over since he can’t be an Arlington Lady.


But since I’m not an Arlington Lady, we played Bocce Ball today instead. Sadly, my teams never won. Then we grilled hamburgers and Ande read this beautiful piece to us at the dinner table.

The largest cemeteries, and in many respects those which evoke the most tender emotions, are honored as the resting places of men who died in the cauldron of conflict known as war while wearing the uniform of their country. One reflects on shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, grief-filled hearts, and lives cut short by the sharp scythe of war. Acres of neat white crosses in the cities of France and Belgium accentuate the terrible toll of World War I. Verdun, France, is in reality a gigantic cemetery. Each spring as farmers till the earth, they uncover a helmet here, a gun barrel there—grim reminders of the millions of men who literally soaked the soil with the blood of their lives.

A tour of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and other battlefields of the American Civil War marks that conflict where brother fought against brother. Some families lost farms, others possessions. One family lost all. Let me share with you that memorable letter which President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Lydia Bixby: “Dear Madam: “I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. “Yours very sincerely and respectfully, “Abraham Lincoln.”

A walk through Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu or the Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Manila reminds one that not all who died in World War II are buried in quiet fields of green. Many slipped beneath the waves of the oceans on which they sailed and on which they died. Among the thousands of servicemen killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor was a sailor by the name of William Ball, from Fredericksburg, Iowa. What distinguished him from so many others who died on that day in 1941 was not any special act of heroism, but the tragic chain of events his death set in motion at home.

When William’s boyhood buddies, the five Sullivan brothers from the nearby town of Waterloo, received word of his death, they marched out together to enlist in the navy. The Sullivans, who wished to avenge their friend, insisted that they remain together, and the navy granted their wish. On November 14, 1942, the cruiser on which the brothers served, the USS Juneau, was hit and sunk in a battle off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Almost two months went by before Mrs. Thomas Sullivan received the news, which arrived not by the usual telegram but by special envoy: all five of her sons were reported missing in action in the South Pacific and presumed dead. Their bodies were never recovered.

One sentence only, spoken by one person only, provides a fitting epitaph: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

This is the clarion call of Christendom. The reality of the Resurrection provides to one and all the peace that surpasses understanding. It comforts those whose loved ones lie in Flanders fields or who perished in the depths of the sea or rest in tiny Santa Clara or peaceful Heber Valley. It is a universal truth.

As the least of His disciples, I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won. May the words made sacred by Him who fulfilled them become actual knowledge to all. Remember them. Cherish them. Honor them. He is risen. ~President Thomas S. Monson

Thank you to the men and women and their families who who have made things so good for the rest of us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homemaking Tip—“A Smile is the Universal Language”

Ty made himself a new friend on the streets of China. His friend's smile makes me smile. A smile is powerful like that.

Smiling is powerful enough to make any homemaking task easier, too. Any. And I'm not just saying that.  Smiling increases the production of the happy hormone serotonin . . . and, scentists have discovered that your body doesn’t know the difference between a fake smile and a real smile, so your body will respond as if it’s the real thing . . . , and a study conducted by UC-Berkeley found that women who smiled in their college yearbook photos led happier lives, had happier marriages, and had fewer personal setbacks in the following 30 years, and . . . Dr. Price told us in child development that it was especially important to smile while changing a dirty diaper because it would affect the baby's self-image of his body. 

So there you have a homemaking tip for today: smile away while doing those slogging tasks because it will make them easier and you happier.  A smile is powerful like that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Terrific Tuesday

A few things which made today terrific:

Legacy Chocolates. Brenda and Nesha were dipping today so Ande and I ran over and got some caramel/almond/dark chocolates, cashew toffee dipped in white chocolate with toasted coconut, cherry nut chocolates, and caramel. Do you have any idea how heavenly it is to live among corn and potato fields and within walking distance to a quality hand-dipped chocolate shop? Remember that swimming pool I wrote about yesterday that we were so sad to leave? If we’d have known a chocolate shop was in the wings we wouldn’t have felt so bad leaving it.

Conversation. Cleavages, chocolate, marriage, shopping, body shapes—they’re all a part of chocolate shop talk.

Leftovers. Mashed potatoes, roast, gravy, chocolate sauce, ice cream, tortellini soup—it’s a virtual restaurant today.

Surprises. Today I watched a dad surprise his sixteen year old son with an ice cream birthday cake in class. The boy literally ran and tackled his dad with a big hug. I’m not sure who was happier.

Dare I hope that ours will look like Cali and Ray's someday?

Free and Floral. Friends are adding on to their home and pulled out their three rhododendrons to make room. The bushes are sitting in a tub on our picnic table waiting to be planted. I’m hoping we can keep them alive.

Balance.  I balanced our checkbook today and the cents matched.  I lost a dollar somewhere, but at least the cents match.

What made your day terrific?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Memories—Toasts and Pools


Toasts were used to keep men from poisoning each other—by tapping the glasses, a little of your drink spilled into mine and a little of mine spilled into yours and so if I tried to poison you it killed me too. After men quit trying to poison each other, toasts became a way to celebrate and build goodwill.

Our family likes to make toasts. It’s a tradition we adopted after attending our first military ball and we do it often. Sometimes we clink bottles of pop and other times we tap goblets of sparkling cider. A few weeks ago when we were visiting Ray and Cali over Mother’s Day we toasted mothers.

Ray’s mother, Mary, was a collegiate diver and swimmer and he attributed his love of sailing and diving to her teaching him how to swim and love the water. “To mothers who teach their children.” Clink.

Ande said her memory was also of the water and me teaching her how to swim. When the kids were little we lived two miles from a warm water, natural springs swimming pool and went swimming several times a week during the summer. It was a beautiful swimming pool isolated twenty five miles from town and surrounded by a park of cotton wood trees. We hated to leave it when we moved. It was a great place to teach kids to swim. I would tread water for an hour or so while the kids jumped from the diving board into the warm water. When they surfaced I would give them a big shove to the ladder at the side of the pool calling out “Swim! Swim! Swim!” as they paddled their little arms and legs. One of Ande’s favorite memories was hanging on to me in the deep end. “To happy memories.” Clink.

When Ande told her memory I asked, “Do you remember when you were about four or five and you were pretending you were a reporter and interviewing the people in the pool? You swam over to me and pretending to have a microphone asked, ‘Tell me, ma’am, what does it feel like to be wearing the ugliest swimming suit in the pool?’ and then turned the mic so I could answer.”

Of course she didn’t remember that. “To funny memories. . . and ugly swimming suits.” Clink.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

52 Blessings—Etc.

An English teacher once said et cetera was lazy and should never be used. She said if we had more to say we should write or say it, not wave it off with et cetera. Our teacher must never have felt like I do today—so many blessings, so many great things, no way to capture it all, etc.—or she would have encouraged it.

Modern technology, computers, etc. Trevor called and Ty and Abe both skyped us this morning. Cali sent an e-mail saying, “We are doing GREAT! I'm not stressing out about not having a plan and Ray doesn't get annoyed when I ask what we're doing next. It has been WONDERFUL.” I also got a couple of e-mails from cousin Erma about an upcoming reunion and niece Bridget about cookie baskets.

People who use their time, talents, etc., to bless others’ lives. Viki crocheted Grace and Abe some little white baby booties and a little white blanket with pearls weaved into the border. They are absolutely precious. I listened to uplifting talks, lessons, musical numbers, etc. today at church. Last night we went to a reception and saw the beautiful red quilt that the mother-of-the-groom had sewn for the couple and ate the refreshments she’d made.

I love the instant communication, connection, etc. that is available from modern blessings today, and also the wake of blessings I enjoy from the ripples that people using their time, talents, etc. make. Truly, so much for which to be grateful today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Life in My World from A-Z

Abba’s been on repeat.

Beans all popped up in the garden. It was old, old seed, but it’s the best and I can’t get anymore of it so we were worried. Shouldn’t have been. Best stand of beans yet.

C on an assignment. The instructor asked if I wanted to do it over because she thought I must not have understood the directions. C is okay. My expectations are much different for me than they were for the kids. I’m almost ready to believe F stands for finished-it-at-least.

Double rainbows—full ones. One was so brilliant it glowed and all of the colors were visible. Incredible. I had never seen one (make that two) like it. Ande and Grace both gasped when we saw it and whispered almost simultaneously, “Thank you Heavenly Father!” It was that impressive.

Emptied the back seat of the car by returning books to the library and only brought one home, The Help.

Frogs are croaking long and loud at night. It’s fun to go to sleep listening to them.

Ground wheat and made four and a half loaves of wheat bread and four loaves of white bread.

Haircut. Happy day.

Ironing. Lots of ironing.

Jogging. Still hate it. I do it for the walk-high afterward. (Well, that and so I can eat more.)

Killdeer eggs hatched, except one. Grace asked, “Does the mother know?”

Lunch and scrapbooking with Grace, and Susan, and Susan’s daughters, Meg and Lilly. I’m doing a dog book for Trevor. Didn’t think I’d ever do a dog book, but Rusty died a few months ago and Trevor asked me to make a book of him. Never say never. Susan is running a marathon soon. I can safely say I’ll never do that.

Michelle Rogge made me a gathering apron. It is wonderful and the fabric is darling (vegetables and chicken wire). This is going to be fancy—no more using my dress hem or shirt as a basket for garden vegetables or eggs.

No word from Cali and Ray. I’m hoping that means they are safe and sound in the jungle. (Is there a jungle in Belize?)

Olive Garden lunch with Kristy, Grace’s sister, and her husband

Perinatologist and ultrasound appointment for Grace and Clara. No new news except that Clara continues to grow.

Quart of whipping cream is in the fridge so that Ande can make crème brulee this afternoon.

Ribs are on the grill. Calvin is one great barbecue-er.

Spaceship broke down, needs repaired” was the sign of a homeless man in Spokane. I think he truly believed it was. Several of us stopped to help fix it.

Time waits for no man. I’ve struggled all week with being late.

Unnecessary pictures were taken. Sometimes Ty teases me about what pictures are on the blog, “Asparagus? Really? Mom, you posted a picture of asparagus?” Today’s picture-less post is dedicated to Ty.

Visker, our neighbor, told me a funny story on the ditch bank this morning about his grandkids.

Water heater is fixed.

Xanthic dandelions are popping out. Ande was rocking in the chair on the patio this morning so I picked one for her just like she used to for me. I wish someone wouldn’t have called them a weed a long time ago.

Year of school is nearly over. It’s been a great year.

Zesty Italian sausage is what Ande used to make the best tortellini soup Friday night.

And that's my week from A-Z.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Homemaking Tip—Marry Yourself a Handyman

Recently Calvin replaced the hinge on the cedar chest he made for Cali several years ago

This tip is for the unmarried: Marry yourself a handyman.

Calvin’s been putting a piece of furniture together for Grace and Abe. And though I’ve heard hell more times than if I actually lived there and had to give my address, having a handyman is so nice and improves your furniture selection.  (Bonus tip: Sit in the same room while handyman assembles the furniture and read a book. Sharing their misery seems to calm them some.)

Our water heater gave out Sunday afternoon. I boiled water for a bath on Monday morning until the handyman could take a look at the water heater. Calvin needed a tool to scoop out the calcium deposits in the bottom so that he could replace the element. He took one of his arrows and taped the smallest spoon we had to it and used that. I laughed when I saw it. He’s made lots of intricate tools for his gun and bow making, he’s carved heavy duty wooden spoons from hard wood for Dutch oven cooking, so an arrow with a spoon duct-taped to it was a bit crude for him. But it worked and when he showed me the bowl of calcium deposits he’d scraped out (imagine wet, lumpy oatmeal swimming in gray water if you'd like) he said, “Makes you sick to think you rinse your mouth out with water from this doesn’t it.” And then in the next breath, “Are you sure you can’t use it somewhere?”

I said, “Well, I guess we could feed it to the chickens.”

A handyman can fix your water heater and make his own tools and provide calcium supplement for the chickens all in one afternoon.

A handyman is a very good investment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughtful Tuesday*—From Here to China

Ray and Cali are in Belize.

Ty is in China.

Abe is in Iraq.

Ande and Grace are here.

Calvin is mowing the lawn.

We’re scattered from here to China. And so are my thoughts . . .

I should get my passport renewed.

Thirty years ago today I graduated from high school. I spoke at our graduation. I still remember the polyester, peach colored dress I wore with a tie at the neck. It was the same day Mt. St. Helen’s blew. I wonder whatever happened to Tamara Rogers.

Abe asked Grace to make sure she reads to Clara each night so The Twelve Dancing Princesses, King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, Heggedy Peg, Fanny’s Dream, Elbert’s Bad Word . . . they’re all making the rounds again. I had to read to our kids at noon because I was too cross and tired at night. I’m quite enjoying these stories in the evening. Who knew? I’m also very much enjoying playing the piano each day so Grace can sing to Clara. I quietly snapped this picture of Abe talking to Clara last week.

Ande made a fresh blueberry lemon pound cake. It is coming out of the oven as I type. Yum. She’s a great cook. She made stinging nettle soup last week. It’s as good as it is beautiful. Have you ever served something this natural this neon? Me neither.

Occasionally I still rock Ande in the rocking chair. I hope we never outgrow it. Today we still fit.

Today has been a beautiful, rainy, cool, nice day. Everything smells wonderful. The front door is wide open and so are many of the windows. So is one heater.

*Thank you again for all of the ideas for Tuesday posts. I’m only about half way through them and I have sure enjoyed your topics. Thanks.

“Now, why don’t he write?”

When we haven’t heard from someone in awhile, our family quotes this line from the movie Dances with Wolves. Upon seeing a man lying on the ground with an arrow through his chest, the crude, lewd, and socially unacceptable wagon master turns to his passenger, Lt. John C. Dunbar (Kevin Costner), and says, “Somebody back East is wondering, ‘Now why don’t he write?’”

To friends and family, the reason “why Jane don’t write” is . . .

Last week Grace had an ultrasound.  She and Abe had been counting down the weeks till they could find out the sex of their baby. Grace came home from the ultrasound beaming. She was able to talk to Abe in Iraq and tell him what the baby was, but he couldn’t call us until later that night. Grace and Abe had decided beforehand that Abe would tell us the news. Ande and I visited with Grace while we fixed supper. Not once did she let a pronoun slip. When Calvin joined us at the supper table we talked more about the baby. She gave nary a hint as to what it would be. Finally about ten o’clock, Abe called and said, “We’re having a boy!” We appropriately hooped and hollered and then he said, “Not really. We’re having a girl!” and we cheered some more. Grace called her friends and family and told them the great news.

The next day the doctor called and asked Grace to come in to discuss the ultrasound results. After many consultations with the doctor, a genetics counselor, a perinatologist, and another more extensive ultrasound, the doctors have determined that the baby has Trisomy 18, including a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. If Grace is able to carry the baby full term, the baby is not expected to live longer than a few breaths to a few hours.

As the doctors broke the news, Grace laid her head in my lap and sobbed. After several minutes she leaned over against Calvin’s chest and sobbed some more. Heart wrenching sobs. Like all new expecting parents, Grace and Abe had so many plans for their baby and their growing family and those plans are now altered or cut short. And yet through it all, the love of God has been felt so strongly, so tangibly. Abe and Grace tell it best:

Dear Family,

I was crushed when I heard the news about Clara Ann. It broke my heart to know that she won't be the perfect little girl we had hoped for. I cry every time I think that Grace and I aren't going to get to hold our little girl more than a day or two. I'm never going to see Grace rock and sing her to sleep. It hurts so much to know that she's never going to grow up and play with dolls. She's never going to go to school. She's never going to play any sports. She's never going to go on a date. She's never going to do hair and makeup with her mom. It kills me to think of all the things my little girl is never going to get to do. I hate that Grace and I don't get to plan for things like clothes to buy, toys to buy, how to paint her room, taking her outside to play...instead we have to plan on where to bury our baby, what kind of casket to get, what type of headstone. This was not at all what we had hoped and dreamed for. Last night when I was taking a shower, I broke down and bawled for 15 minutes when I thought of everything we couldn't do with Clara and all the things we were going to have to do instead. These past few days have been the worst days of my life.

However, I have learned a lot in the past few days . . .

I never knew I could feel so much love for someone I've never seen . . .

I've also found great peace and comfort in these past few days . . .

I know that Grace and I will have the opportunity to someday raise Clara . . .

I know that the resurrection is real . . .

I know that through the Atonement, Christ has made it possible for us to all be together again. I'm so grateful that he suffered so much pain and anguish to be able to comfort us and ease our pain.

I’m so grateful that we received Clara. I'm grateful that we received such a special girl. This has been a hard experience, but I wouldn't trade it and I wouldn't trade Clara for any other baby. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and is mindful of us.

I love you all.


This has been the hardest thing Abe and I have ever gone through. It's so hard knowing we were so happy (and) were going to start our little family and we had so many plans . . . We don't get to do these things anymore . . . Our hearts are completely broken. It's unbelievable to me that with all her problems she wasn't miscarried. But she's holding strong, she's feisty . . . and she is fighting this out.

Abe and I know that Clara will always and forever be our little girl. We are so thankful that through the Atonement of Christ our broken hearts will be healed and that through the Resurrection, Clara will receive a perfect body and we will get to hold her in our arms again. We are so thankful to have been married in the temple where we are sealed to Clara for all eternity. She is our special little girl and we wouldn't trade her for anything. Even though this has been hard, Abe and I know that we will learn so much from this, and we feel so honored Heavenly Father would send such a special little girl into our lives. We feel so blessed and wouldn't trade her for anything. I hope that I get to carry her full term so that I can be close to her as long as I can. I ask for your prayers that this will happen. I love this little baby so much and I want to help her keep fighting.

(Before the doctors’ consultations) I received a blessing from my father-in-law saying that no matter what everything will be okay. After the blessing I felt so at peace even though I was still worried out of my mind. I was calm and knew that everything was in Heavenly Father's hands. I didn't think I was going to lose little Clara, but now I know that it is the Lord's will. During the ultrasound the very first picture we got of Clara was a picture of Clara's head and her arm with her thumb sticking straight up. The technician said, look she's giving you thumbs up! We got a picture of it and the technician wrote on the picture, "Thumbs up, Mom!" I really felt as though Clara was saying, "Everything's going to be okay, Mom!" Like I said, looking at her you would never guess she had any problems. She acts like the happiest little baby and is my sweet little girl.

This is so hard, but like I said I feel so honored to be Clara Ann's mother. I know I will be with her again and "everything will be okay!" I wanted you all to know what was going on. Thank you for your support and I ask that you will keep Clara, Abe, and me in your prayers. I love you all.


And so while we wait for little Clara’s birth, we are grateful for the peace the Savior gives. Peace is better than easy. Peace is even better than painless. The peace of God truly “passeth all understanding” and we’re grateful for it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Treasure

Recently I was asked: “Your house is on fire. Your family is already safe and accounted for. What ten things would you wish to save?”

This was one of the ten items I chose:

(please pretend with me that this is fine, black velvet showcasing this beautiful bracelet, not our blue chair cushion)

A couple of months ago Ty asked his host mom, Whitney, to make this bracelet for me. Attached as a charm is a miniature replica of his USAFA class ring--complete with class crest, motto, etc... I love what this ring stands for.  I love the sentiment behind this gift. I especially love that Ty asked Whitney to make it. It is a real treasure.

For Mother’s Day, I asked each of the kids and Calvin to buy a charm that best represents them to add to the bracelet. I expect it will take several months for each of them to find one, but when they’re all attached I’ll take another picture and share.

In the meantime, if your house was on fire, with your family safe and accounted for, what is one item you would wish to save?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Memories--dustinwind

Today we have 45 mile-an-hour winds with 60 mile-per-hour gusts.

I told Ande and Grace there was no sense cleaning house today.

Our house looks like the old museum on Highway 30.

I was raised on wind.  I find howling and rattling windows a bit comforting.

Until today I have never had the wind nearly whip the glasses off my face. I caught them just in time.

(Thank you for the picture Heather)

After today I fear we’ll either find carrots, spinach, and lettuce growing everywhere in our garden, or having to replant because the seeds are in the neighbor’s field.

We have an energy-efficient leak.

I have a friend in Idaho that named her children Windy, Stormy, and Dusty.

I memorized this poem when I was a little girl:

Who Has Seen the Wind?
by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

52 Blessings— Syringa vulgaris

I used to babysit seventy-something-year-old Emma, who loved her African violets like they were babies or kittens. We spent a lot of time in her bedroom, where she kept a three-tray plant light, while she told me of each violet’s origin, heritage, and health history. It was a snoozer conversation topic for sure, but I listened to all fifty histories because they were so important to her . . . and she needed me to help her clean the trays.

I didn’t know then why Emma loved her African violets so—perhaps because they needed her, or maybe because she couldn’t get out much so they gave her winter color, or maybe it was because they were green and purple and purple and green are a beautiful color combination. All I knew then was that Emma’s violets were a blessing to her even though they were a terrible bore to me.

And now the story has come full circle.  I love our lilac bushes, all 150 yards of them,—perhaps it is because they give our expansive lawn a pretty border, perhaps it is because they are green and purple and purple and green are a beautiful color combination, perhaps it is because our whole world smells heavenly for the week they are in bloom, perhaps it is because they give life back to winter. All I know is our lilacs are a beautiful blessing to me; they remind me of the love and power of a Creator. And if you’d like to come sniff and collect a bouquet we’d love to have you come for a visit. We’ll even offer you one of Grace’s Snickerdoodles from the cookie jar.

Emma makes perfect sense to me now.