Sunday, July 31, 2011

When Life in My World Bumps into 52 Blessings

There were whites and reds under the same plant.  In the words of Grandpa Hoops, "Humph."

*After Calvin and I finished working out in the garden Saturday he said, “Let’s make a few piles (of potatoes, beans, beets, squash, etc.) and take them to people.”  We went to a family that Calvin home teaches first.  They are one of the finest couples and it’s always a pleasure to visit them.  Always.  They tell us what is happening in their lives, and we talk about current events and politics, and their children and grandchildren.  They ask about each one of our kids by name and what they are doing.  Though they’ve lived in the West for decades, their Southern accents are still pure.  It’s like them; they are genuine.    

*My friend and visiting teaching companion, Barbra, offered to take the two sister missionaries to the temple in Spokane.  She invited me along, too.  Barbra is always so generous and willing.  She’s a great woman.   

When we stopped to eat, a deaf man approached me on the street with a handful of pens.  His sign said, “Would you like one?”  I was so glad I still had a dollar in my purse.  A dollar won’t buy a bottle of water, but it will buy you a pen that reminds you of how much you have to be grateful for.  What a steal.  

This photo is a perfect picture of “I shouldn’t have judged.”  I saw this group enter at the back of the stage and groaned just a bit, until they started to play.  They were good.  And while I didn’t take the woman in the center seriously (before they began to play she danced around the stage a bit to the prerecorded music), I should have.  She was good and fun, and I was quite endeared to her by the end.  I really enjoyed The Dead Fiddlers.

*Our city may not have a wonderful grocery store and we may only have Wal-Mart as our shopping option, but we do have some great free concerts in the park all summer long.  This week was the bluegrass festival.  There were banjos and fiddles and basses and mandolins and guitars strumming for hours on end.  And even after we left the concert at ten o'clock, they promised that they would continue jamming in the campground 'til the sun came up.  I have little doubt they fulfilled that promise.

These were two new dips I tried from a blog.  I'll post the recipes Wednesday.

Calvin and I had a great time at the concert.  We packed a cooler and listened for four hours.  Bluegrass is one of those genres that not only causes lots of foot tapping, but attracts all kinds of people – both as performers and listeners.  We were so glad we’d gone.  One of the perks of marriage is always having your friend to do fun things with.

*I have gotten plenty of teasing about blogging friends from the kids through the years – especially the boys.  Abe and Ty call them my imaginary friends.  Joe pretends there are legions of them.  Ray, after meeting a blog-friend in Alaska, says he’s the self-appointed president of Janer Payner’s International and sometimes pumps a fist in the air and says, “Janer Payner’s UNITE.”  I mostly laugh at them all, and quietly go on appreciating the great people I’ve met through blogging.

This week Tami called and introduced herself.  Tami is from Colorado, but was here in town visiting her family.  Tami is also the friend of one of my blog friends.  Tami asked if she could come out and videotape a message from me for our mutual friend.  It was great meeting Tami and her husband Scott.  What a great and inspiring woman.  Long live blog friends.

scene from The Champ
*I saw the headline Scientists Name Saddest Movie Seen Ever and clicked on it.  The report said:  “As reported in, psychologists who study human emotions in laboratory settings have found that Schroder’s performance in the final scene of . . . “The Champ” reliably makes their test subjects sad on cue.”

I got sad just reading about the scene, because I remember it.  I knew better, but I went and watched the youtube clip of it anyway.  I wanted to see if it was really as sad as I remembered.  

Embedding has been disabled for this video, so you have to click here to see it.   

(By chance, if you go and watch it, please tell me what you think of it.)

I should have trusted the scientists.  It was as sad as I remembered.  I cried all over again.  It is so real.  “Georgie, make him wake up” is the line that really hurts.  After I finished the clip I wanted to google Ricky Schroder and make sure he has a happy life now; make sure everything is going okay for him and that he feels better.  After a few hours, I finally did.  I was glad to read that he has a wife and four children and is an advocate for children by fighting against child abuse.  It appears he’s doing just fine and helping others to be fine, too.  

*To sum up life in my world (as if you need a summation) and add in one of my Sunday 52 Blessings, I would have to say I’m grateful for being able to go to free concerts in the park with Calvin, and good people the whole world over, and a sad movie clip every now and then to remind me of the good things in life.  And potatoes.    

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Thinking

the dimensions - one, two, and three

Life is fairly one dimensional for me.  I don’t see much beyond the basic outline until someone points it out. 

For example, remember the three dimensional Magic Eye pictures?  The kids worked and worked with me until I could see the pictures that are within the pictures.  Finding the dinosaurs in this picture took a loooong time.

Though I don’t see a lot of depth naturally, I appreciate it when people point it out to me.  I have two nieces who see things three dimensionally and I love hearing their perspectives on life as well as seeing their drawings.  They make things richer . . . and make more sense.

Symbolism is a lot like third dimension.  It’s deeper than what you see on the surface.  Sometimes symbols are interesting and instructive.  Like an article I once read (similar to this one) that tells how the shape of many foods we eat are good for the body part that they look like.  For example, slice a carrot and it looks like an eye and everyone’s mother always said, “eat your carrots so you can see in the dark.”  Or how a walnut looks like a brain and walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which support brain function.  Or how celery looks like a bone and both bones and celery are 23% sodium and celery is a good source of silicon which is part of the bones’ molecular structure. 

I understand simple symbols (heart = love) but, like dimensions, need the more complex pointed out to me.  

I was so glad when Ande showed me that in art, Mary, the mother of Jesus, will usually be the woman in blue, because blue is the color of the heavens, purity, and divine nature.  Like Waldo, now I can always find Mary.

Ande also taught me what a circle within a square means in architecture.  The circle is infinite and eternal and the most perfect geometric figure; a circle represents God.  A circle also represents Heaven.  The square is not found in nature; it is man-made and therefore represents mankind.  The square also represents the four corners of the Earth.  Thus the circle within the square represents heaven and earth coming together – a place where man and God can meet.  I enjoy looking for circles within squares now on buildings and what that symbol is trying to communicate.

Because life is deceiving when it is seen in only one dimension, the gospel of Jesus Christ, rich in symbolism, gives life the explanation I need to see it more clearly.  The simple symbolism of the faith of a mustard seed helps me understand that the Lord can help me reach my potential if I trust Him.  Baptism, a symbol of burying the sinful me and being born anew, gives hope and beauty to world weary souls.  The earth is full of symbols that point us toward the Savior.  The scriptures say that “. . . all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath:  all things bear record of me.”  (Moses 6:63)

The Gospel fleshes out life.  It adds purpose, it adds understanding, it gives hope.  It takes what looked like a simple square and makes it a box – a gift box, no less – so much richer and fuller than a square.  And, you find that when you open that box and accept and live the details of the Gospel it makes life more meaningful and ultimately more simple, like the square.  Except that cycle is called a circle, so now we're back to the circle within the square where man can meet God.  

And that’s what I’ve been thinking . . .  how grateful I am for the Gospel which gives life meaning and makes it more simple to understand.

By the way, did you find the dinosaurs?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Homemaking Tip -- To Be To Do

When I jog I listen to This American Life or Legacy pod-casts, biographies, conference talks, or the scriptures.  I have tried music, but music doesn't out-beat the misery.  People's voices about real life things do.  It doesn't make sense to me either, you'd think a good drum could push me further than the word, but it doesn't.  

One of the talks I listened to this week was Lynn Robbins', "What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?"  He said, "Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish.  But people rarely have to be lists.  Why?  To do's are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done.  To be, however, is never done.  You can't earn checkmarks with to be's."  Elder Robbins emphasized we must do then be, be then do.  He's right.  He's so right.  Faith without works is dead; likewise, works without faith is fruitless.  To be's would be a great addition to my to do list.

For the sake of this blog post, here is a combined to-be-do (sounds like a do-wop chorus doesn't it?) list.  I made it after the fact from the events of the past week.  

Make a blanket for the crib.

It’s not much, just two pieces of flannel with some warm and natural batting tied in between with cotton binding around the edge, but it works.  We were plumb out of baby quilts and you can’t have babies come to visit if you don’t have a blanket for them.   
Make tamales.

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve made them, but Calvin and I made a couple dozen the other night.  We tried a new method.  They weren’t very good.  You can’t shortcut a tamale.  It just doesn’t work.  Good thing we didn't make eleven dozen -- that would be expensive chicken feed.

Go to a baby shower for Levin.

Betty Lybbert.  Betty goes to each bridal and baby shower.  Each one.  She makes an apron
for the brides and a blanket for the babies.  She does beautiful work.

Good friends held a baby shower for Cali and Levin.  I never cease to be amazed and humbled at how generously women support new wives and mothers who are beginning their journey.

Shelly organized a fun game of Concentration using labor, delivery, and mothering terms.  Each match had a candy bar attached to it.  For the life of me all I can remember now is the candy bar that went with engorgement.  No, it wasn’t Milky Way.  Everybody guessed that and they were wrong.  It was Whoppers.  Oh wait.  I remember another one:  The prize for toddler was Runts. 

Figure out how to wrap an unwrap-able gift.

When I saw this little rocking moose a year ago, I thought, “If Ray and Cali ever have a baby that is the gift for them.”  (Ray loves to hunt moose in Alaska.)  But how do you wrap a rocking moose when there is not a big enough gift bag in town?  Well, I'll tell you.  You buy a plastic tablecloth and sew it up the sides and make your own gift bag.  (Next time I would make the bag smaller though.)

– Be nice.

I think I mean be kind, not be nice.  People can be nice, but still not be kind.  Nice can be surface only, while kind is from the heart.  I'm still working on this one, this will be on my list till the day I die.  Can’t measure it, but I did swallow a couple of zingers.  They tasted awful but felt good.  

Go on a picnic.

Cascade Park

KFC chicken and mashed potatoes

I called Calvin one afternoon and said, “Bacon and tomato sandwiches or a picnic for supper?”  He chose a picnic.  We picked up some chicken and went to a park by the lake.  We were gone for less than an hour, but it was such a nice evening.

Pick beans and broccoli.

Tin foil dinner made with a chicken breast and baked in the oven.

The garden is going full steam.  The sunflowers are starting to head, the flowers are beginning to bloom, the potato vines are wilting, the tomatoes are ripening, and the weeds are still growing.  I do love a garden in the back yard.  It makes cooking so simple.

Read, read, read.

I’ve got a menagerie going right now.  I just finished a novel about a girl in China.  I read it years ago, but it didn’t stick.  I didn’t even remember where the treasure was hidden.  I’m also reading Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament, a book Ande and Joe gave to me.  It reads like a good college text book.  I’m enjoying it very much.  I finished Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc not long ago.  Oh, I love what that book made me think about and feel.  Joan of Arc's history reminds me of pieces of the stories from the great Bible women Deborah, Esther, Mary, and Ruth.  I started The Nine this afternoon.  It’s a book about the justices on the Supreme Court.  I’m not sure whether or not to finish it.  I’ll give it another 50 pages.  (Haley, do they ever quit slamming the justices' conservative votes?)  I hate to quit it; I already quit A Severed Wasp after 200 pages last week.  Do you think it's worse to quit a book and not give it a chance to redeem itself, or finish a book and then be disappointed you wasted your time on it?

Be Alyson’s assistant in Levin’s photo shoot.

Ray, Cali, and Levin came over last weekend for the baby shower and so that Alyson could take their family pictures.  She is one talented photographer.  She is creative and captures emotion.  I followed her with props.  She got some great shots.

After Alyson had finished taking pictures and while she and Cali were visiting in the kitchen, Ray quietly picked up Levin in the basket and took him outside saying, “Alyson just trained her competition.”  Ray put him in some of the funniest poses -- under a potted plant, swinging in the tire swing, with a rifle, with the dog.  

Ray titled this picture, "But I wasn't finished eating yet." (or something like that)

My friend Denise came to visit for a few hours and I served yogurt pie garnished with cherries.  Another time I garnished fresh tomatoes and cottage cheese with a basil leaf and chopped chives for supper.  Both were pretty simple . . . but still pretty.

 Get jogging done early and learn to enjoy it before the last lap

One of the things I love about summer is being able to exercise in the morning rather than in the afternoon.  Every morning at 7:00, Dan barks letting me know it’s time to go.  He moves from window to window trying to find which room I’m in, and doesn't stop until I go.  I don’t know why he loves it so, it’s not that exciting, especially without headphones.  I love the last lap of walking, and feel so rewarded and exhilarated at what I've learned when I'm finished, but I'm still trying to imagine what a runner’s high must feel like.  I think I need to quit expecting easy and be grateful for rewarding.

Do something unplanned.

This is a little office building that the men made out of a granary.  They insulated it and it's quite
comfortable.  It's the funniest thing:  they've found old discarded chairs, a ceiling fan, a window, an air conditioner,
even a sink to put in it.  I enjoyed the tour and was impressed with their ingenuity and pride in their clubhouse. 

Calvin stopped by this afternoon to make a sandwich.  He said he was headed down to the church farm – about ninety minutes away – and wondered if I wanted to ride along.  I weighed my options – work on my to-do list or go and hope for an ice cream cone along the way.  I packed a bag of books and a small tag-making project and joined him.  Calvin visited with the farmer for a couple of hours while I read by the wheat field and browned the backs of my legs.  It felt like a little-kid summer afternoon of watching the clouds.  I enjoyed the sun, the time with Calvin, the books, the leisure . . . all of it.  And, Calvin finished so late we stopped for supper on the way home.  There was ice cream for dessert.   

Tea towels.

I made more.  I’m going to have to keep the beehive tea towel because I ironed it on crooked.  It will look at home in our kitchen.  Ande didn’t like the burlap pillow so gave it to me.  I ironed the fruit images on it.  It looks good, not necessarily photogenic, but really cute.

 Be happy some more.

Oh I know, "be happy some more" is one of those to be goals that can't really be checked off and stamped "finished."  It's a continuation and, like to be kind, I'll need to work on optimism until I die, but if anything from the past few days could give me a check mark on the to be happy list, this picture would be it.  Calvin is completely serious in this  picture.  He isn't trying to be funny.  He was quietly and carefully looking through old coins.  I called his name so he would look up, then snapped the picture.  Oh ho.  It still makes me laugh.  He found a 1920 penny with that magnified eye.  That penny is 91 years old.  I wish we knew it's history.  I wonder where it has been.  Oh, I do wish money could talk, I do, I do.  I wonder whose pockets it was in during the Roaring Twenties and The Depression and World War II.  I wonder if it's ever gone overseas.  And how did it ever make it through the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and 2000's?  

What's something on your to-do-be list?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemaking Tip -- A Little Chalkboard Paint Can Go a Long Ways

We grew up on a chalkboard.  My mom painted a piece of plywood, had someone screw a little silver tray to the bottom of the board, and hung it in the kitchen.  Our chores were listed on the chalkboard and that's where Mom left us notes when she wasn't there when we came home from school.  We also drew on it lots and lots.  I don't know why I didn't make one for my own little family because I loved it.

I really liked Ande's chalkboard globe and wanted to make one.  This past weekend I found a globe at the flea market for two dollars.  (The man wanted three, but I reminded him the countries' lines were no longer current and that really two was pushing it.  He acted offended, but not so offended as to not take two dollars.)  Ande had taken her chalkboard paint to the retreat so I brought it home.  I painted the globe and then, because the base was brown and the globe was black, mod-podged newspaper-like cardstock to the base of it, so that it was better coordinated.

Ande said she got the idea from a woman who made one for her kids so that they could redraw the maps and learn world geography.  That's a very good use for it.

As long as I had the chalkboard paint out and a dirty brush, I painted labels on jars, too.  I put lavender from the yard in one, and fresh cherries in another.

Though the globe was a good deal, the greatest deal I got at the flea market was a desk chair.  It's not oak.  It's not laminate.  It's not pine.  Calvin said perhaps birch . . . and since he knows woods, I'm going with that.  I got it for $7.50.  It was a great deal and I am very happy about it.  Jill (from the retreat) said she saw where a woman had painted the desk part of the chair with chalkboard paint.  That's a good idea, too, and if I didn't have the chalkboard globe already to sit on it, I'd be tempted.  I have chalkboard paint and a dirty brush you see.

My last good deals at the flea market were these child chairs for $4 each.

Calvin said we'd scrub them down and oil them.  Ohhhhhhh, the possibilities.  I just need a Goldilocks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesdays With Ande

Last weekend Ande and I went to a scrapbooking retreat in Monroe, Washington.  We had a grand time.  Instead of paragraphing you through our weekend, I'll picture you through it.

Back Row:  Ande, Donna, Anita, me, Jill, Jenny, Tracy, Amanda, Deb
Front Row:  Sonja, Nicole, Sandy
Not pictured:  Susan, Cali

This is who we went with.  This group of friends has evolved from the original friendship of Deb and Donna.  Deb and Donna met each other as consultants for a home-party based business nearly twenty five years ago.  And even though Donna lives on one side of the mountain and Deb on the other, their friendship has outlasted the snowstorms.  One by one, Deb and Donna have added more people to the friendship until now there are over a dozen of us who get together (once, or twice, or several times a year) to scrapbook and work on projects.  Because we spend the time scrapbooking family pictures and memories, by default we also know each other's families.

Sandy, Donna, Nicole, and Sonja organized everything and assigned the meals, coordinated little gifts, and warmed and heated peppermint-scented washcloths for us in the evening.  (Donna's mantra is "it's all in the packaging"  and she skillfully lives it.)

Four different ways to serve a s'more

Harry Potter fun

Sandy serving warm washcloths

Ande at the sprinkles table

Cali brought Levin up Friday afternoon to meet everyone.  He went from one mother and one grandmother to a dozen in a moment.  Everyone was excited for Cali and Ray and immediately welcomed Levin to the scrapbook club.

Ande and Levin

Ande worked on several projects while we were there -- she put together frames, a memory box, and made a birthday present for me.

She started and finished this gift within an hour:

(It now hangs on our dining room wall and looks wonderful.  I love it.  She chose to paint my favorite flower:  a carnation.  She also made Idaho Spud cupcakes for my birthday.  They were really good.  I ate six before it was over.)

I was walking around the scrapbook room enjoying everyone's work and projects when we got to the retreat.  I stopped to admire Sandy's jar of wooden spools on her work table.  I oohed and ahhed, looked closely at them, and told her what a great idea it was and that I wanted to duplicate it.  I went back to my scrapbook table and opened a package from my sister Rachel that I had picked up at the mailbox on my way to the retreat, but hadn't yet opened.  I opened up the box to a jar of wooden spools.  Serendipity!  

I got 50 cards made, nearly 30 pages scrapbooked, and finished a few small projects at the retreat.  Several of us went to a craft store and flea market while we were there, too.  I found a few great deals and will post them as well as a couple of the projects tomorrow in a Homemaking Tips post.

The retreat was more than flea market deals, cards, pages, or projects, it was spending the time with Ande and also visiting with friends.  And laughing.  That group laughs so easily.  We had a grand time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thinking – Noras and Bonnies

Last week while I was still in Seattle I read an on-line article in my hometown newspaper about a woman named Nora.  She died last summer when she was 87 years old, and had been a widow for several years prior.  She and her husband had no children.  Nora loved knitting, gardening, and helping out on the farm.  She went to church and occasionally visited the senior citizen’s center.  She sounded like such a nice lady.

Nine months after Nora died, ten different charitable organizations in her community received a letter from her lawyer stating that Nora had left them each $237,500 dollars. Nora had $2,375, 000 when she died!  No one would have guessed it – not her fellow parishioners, not her fellow senior citizens, no one.  Most of the organizations had never even seen or heard of Nora, but that did not diminish their appreciation for her gift. 

I told Cali the story while she fed Levin and we talked about various good and kind people we know.  Bonnie, Cali and Abe’s primary teacher, was one of the people we remembered.  Bonnie taught the three year old Sunbeam class for years and years.  At the beginning of each year she bought each child his own box of crayons.  No big ice cream bucket of broken crayons out of the church library for her class, no sir, each child had his own sharp crayons.  Bonnie was the sole wage earner in her family so the crayons were a small sacrifice.  Cali said, “I remember she looked at my picture of a little girl wearing a skirt and she told me I was really good at drawing skirts.  And then I told her, ‘Oh it’s easy, I’ll show you how to draw one.  You just make a triangle like this.’ And then I drew one with my crayons she bought us as if she didn’t know how to draw a dress.”  Cali snort laughed at that point and said, “Funny how I’ve never forgotten that – which just goes to show you that you’re never too young to appreciate a compliment.  I'll bet she never knew how important it was to me that she said that and listened.”

Though there was a disparity in the dollar value in the above situations, there was no difference in that Bonnie and Nora both used their talents and means and made life sweeter for someone else.   

Today six women made my life sweeter.  Three brought me a birthday cake and then sat and visited for an hour. 

Later three more women took me to lunch and brought gifts. 

We visited for several hours.  It was plain invigorating . . . and fun.

Life is clear full of Bonnies and Noras, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about.