• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Salt Lake City
24 July 1965
Lybbert Family Reunion

I transcribed an old cassette some time ago. I share, in part, some amusements of a time and pattern of life that seems no longer a significant part of our society.

Unknown speaker possibly Darnell Hatch,

“… we have met here as a family group … this has been a great experience for all of us. We have [many older family members] here … and it has been a marvelous occasion. Tonight we decided that we would record some of these experiences that we have had. We’ve got Victor [Hatch] here and his talents. We’d like to record some of those. Probably in 20 years from now we wouldn’t have these recordings.”

Victor Hatch is the brother of Chloe Hatch, my paternal grandmother. His was married to Susan Lybbert and they lived in Cardston, Alberta, Canada.

Our family often visited ‘Uncle Vic and Aunt Susan’. Aunt Susan had beautiful extensive flower gardens and was constantly sending home a start of something with mom. Walking with them carefully about the yard was always allowed [ask me sometime about things that aren't allowed when you go Sunday visiting] and there I learned many plant names and what their leaves and flowers looked like. It seemed she always had another plant to show mom.

The best thing about visiting them was that invariably she would make or bring out some peanut brittle or stretch candy. No one made peanut brittle like Aunt Susan! No one made stretch candy as light or fluffy and melt-in-your mouth as Susan Hatch!

There was never enough to go around enough times to 11 kids!

She tried and tried to teach us how to make it but somehow ours never tasted quite like hers or got the requisite ‘air’ to be light or fluffy. I suspect we just didn’t have the tenacity and persistence to actually stretch it enough – that didn’t matter though – anything with sugar in it or on it always got eaten and was never thrown away.

Uncle Vic had a small ordinary muslin bag hung on the back of their front door. It was only about 2 or 3 inches square. After company was nicely settled and politely visiting in a boring way he could sometimes be persuaded to get his bag. He would warn you that it was a bag of laughs and you would not be able to remain serious or sober. Aunt Susan did not feel it was appropriate for the Sabbath and so, as far as I know, he never opened it during a Sunday visit – or at least not without her face sternly reprimanding him for doing so.

He made a big show of shaking the bag and peeking in it and then he would tell you that before he dared open it he would need to tell you about laughin’.

He would then recite the poem transcribed below. At some point near the end of the poem he would push the on switch in his bag and a torrent of all kinds of mechanical 'canned' laughter would fill the room. Invariably every person in the room would be laughing until tears ran down their faces – except Aunt Susan. Although she must have heard the gag over and over and over even she would be smiling with a bit of laughing thrown in – I think she laughed at everyone that got so silly at his pranks.
At the Lybbert Reunion he began his recitations with a poem about two frogs (one persistent frog that doesn’t give up and the other that quits) that he said was: “ one of the first ones I ever learned when I was a little boy...”

He then recited two more poems before a female voice is heard speaking (I think it is Aunt Susan). She says, “Grandpa Hatch was one like Victor to memorize. And in his 89th year – before he died – he was 89 years old and would have been 90 in another month, but the 3 weeks left (the 3 weeks he was with us) he memorized pieces every day and he’d spend lots of time repeating his pieces that he had memorized to the children, that one month.”

Victor then recited Betsy and the Bear and two more poems. Of course his ‘Laughin’ recitation is last and he can be heard laughing it up on the tape as he pulls off a typical performance that gets most of the group that is listening doing exactly what he is reciting about - and he ‘leaves them laughing.’ I found a version of two of the poems on line and welcome any known links to this poem/recitation. I found a line quoted from it attributed to Josh Billings (pen name) but did not find the poem itself. This recitation was always shared with descriptive laughing in appropriate places – anywhere he could insert some, point at someone laughing in the audience and mimic them, or just bust out with his own genuine rolling laugh.


Laughin’ is the sensation of feeling good all over and showing it principally in one spot. It is the next best thing to the 10 commandments. It is the fireworks of the soul.

Laughing is just as natural to come to the surface as a rat is to come out of his hole if he wants to. Ya can’t keep it back be swallering [enacted] anymore than you can the hiccups. HIC!!

When a man can’t laugh there’s some mistake made in putting him together and if he won’t laugh he needs just as much keeping away from as a bear trap when it’s set.

There’s some folks that laugh too much for their own good or anybody else’s. They laugh like a barrel of new cider with the tap pulled out – a perfect stream. Now, this is a great waste of natural juice.
There’s other folks don’t laugh enough to give themselves vent. They’re like a barrel of new cider too; that was bunged up -they’re like as to spring a hoop and leak away all on the sly. Now there’s neither of these two ways right and they never ought to be a patented.

Genuine laughing is the vent of the soul; the nostrils of the heart, and just as necessary for health and happiness as spring weather is for trout.

There’s one kind of a laugh that I always did recommend. It looks out of the eyes first with a merry twinkle before it creeps off to the dimples of the cheeks and writhes right around the nose in whirlpools for a while; then it lights up the whole face like the mellow bloom of a damask rose; then it swings off into the air with a peal as clear and happy as a dinner bell; then it goes back on golden tiptoe like an angel out on an errand and lies down in the bed of violets in the heart where it came from.

There’s another kind of a laugh that nobody can withstand. It’s as honest and as noisy as a district school let out to play. (By now he seemed to have himself laughing uncontrollably while trying to say his piece and that just made it all the more funny). It shakes a man from his toes to his temples. It done movincates him and comes – it gets to rippling through him! It lifts him off his chair like feathers and lets him fall back again like lead. It goes all through him like a pick pocket and leaves him just as limp and as crazy as if he’d been in a Russian bath all day and forgot to be took out.

In conclusion I say, “laugh every good chance you get – but don’t laugh if you don’t feel like it.” [and he would speak the last half of the line with a completely serious face without any trace of the hilarity that immediately preceded it in the first half of that line. He would finish out the rest of the poem mimicking laughs from audience members that had laughed like his recitation describes and even calling out a name and pointing to someone with dyed hair that was laughing – or not – but they always were so he’d just pick on the one that could make it the funniest.] When you do laugh open your mouth wide enough so that it can get through without squeakin’. Throw your head back like you was gonna get shaved, hold onto your dyed hair with both hands, and laugh until your soul is thoroughly rested.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


While my 3 older children were in high school Tad told me that, "Fair is the four letter 'F' word."

Tad, I think you are correct; it is a four letter 'F' word.

One of the first things most of us learn in life is that many things are decidedly unfair.

Many words have 4 letters.

If a word has 5 letters or 6 letters - or more - can it have greater power? Some people think so. Others think 1 and 2 letter words do. I have been thinking about words a lot lately - how they hurt or help us. Especially the words we say to ourselves and about ourselves in the privacy of our own mind.

There are those we say out loud and those we think. 
Each has phenomenal power.

The Bible tells us in John 1:1-5

   1 In the beginning was the Word, 
       and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
   2 The same was in the beginning with God.
   3 All things were made by him; 
       and without him was not any thing made that was made.
   4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
   5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Words can give light or bring darkness, healing or hurt, hope or despair.

I sincerely desire that my words heal me - and you, 
    help me - and you, lift me - and you. 
Lift us up to hope and the light,
    healing and help that comes only from 'The Word.'


Word. That is a four letter word.

Words – that has 5 letters – and now it means so much more than before.

There are words that should not be spoken. We all know them. If we utter (or mutter) certain words faces and eyes tell us more absolutely than if someone spoke that the voiced sound was not socially acceptable or particularly intelligent or appropriate. Many of these words have four letters.

If someone tells me, “… so and so said a four letter word” (or if I see that phrase in print) I have heard enough expletives to be able to guess (in most contexts) what was actually said – even if the word in fact has more or fewer letters.

(That raises an interesting question – would that be a striking literary device? Four letter words – that aren’t … hmmm … oh, and are also not an expletive).

During childhood several of my children played word games they made up – I swear I did not deliberately teach them to do that! I do find juxtaposing words an interesting mental exercise so, of course, I did not discourage or forbid such activities either. I admit I was often a willing participant and thoroughly enjoyed hearing them flex and stretch their vocabulary muscles.

4 letter words popped up occasionally. One child began talking by parroting everything heard. Just repeat a word, for example car, and make a rhyme by exchanging the initial consonant. It was a delightful experiment that earned oooo’s and aww’s from older siblings and adults as words like far and even star (and also many nonsense syllables) were constantly sing-songed around and through every communication. Eventually a leap to the final consonant was made (perhaps someone taught that) and – with the word changing from car to cat and then to flat - another linguistic world opened and expanded that 2 year-old’s speech horizons exponentially. Imagine our chagrin when some words were stumbled upon. It is amazingly difficult to keep a straight face and not encourage OR reinforce some words.

Although I hadn't heard it stated overtly before, I had to agree with the child that pointed out to me that ‘FAIR’ is a 4 letter word. Expletives are commonly used to grab attention and express strong emotion. He got mine.

I began to ponder 4 letter words – all of them – especially those that are routinely paired with familiar opposites like rich and poor, easy and hard, give and take, and of course love and hate.

Now there is a fun mental exercise. Try it. Can you add more pairs that, just by using them together, give power to your language or expression? cute and ugly, inch and mile, head and tail, open and shut, fast and slow, blue and pink, or deaf and hear. What about using paired synonyms like toil and work, dork and dope, or yowl and yelp?

Now consider: what happens if you change over to a 5 letter word? This amazed me. Adding or taking away one letter seemed to amplify the strength or weakness of a word or word pair. How about post and posit? Think about word and world, sale and stale, rest and wrest, or mime and mimic – the possibilities begin to just roll through my brain – ah and what about changing word to sword or sword to word? There is a story all in itself!

Consider the power and opposition of words like black and white, large and small, milk and meat, smile and frown, or hard and soft - remember easy? see how that comparative changes from hard and easy to hard and soft?

4 letters, fewer letters, more letters – words. So what?

4 letter words [expletives] have become so common place that some people seem unaware of the offensive inadequacies such speech habits perpetuate. Slang and expletives that do not really mean anything at all are added to or applied to every conversation (and even sentence or phrase) making them boring or embarrassing to listen to and tedious to decipher.

There are 4 letter words that are not profane or lewd that we avoid saying too. They make most people uncomfortable and disturb the even tenor and carefully shielded ways we interact culturally – perhaps because words like barf, lice, and anatomical references hold us to levels of responsible behavior mostly reserved for intimate interpersonal interactions. These taboo words, like manure, may have more or fewer than the specified 4 letters and (unless you are discussing gardening) they generally derail or stop polite conversation and interactions like a head on collision with a freight train.

Most of us instinctively avoid words about disease or death. Cancer has 6 letters. If a doctor says ‘cancer’ regarding you personally you feel like you heard a four letter word. Many other words in ‘doctor speak’ have many more than even 6 letters and feel like assault and battery.

We know words affect us - help or hurt or heal us. We know words have strength, even individually – both for good and for evil. Think of all the connotations and implications for the word ‘chocolate’ or ‘torture’ or ‘omniscient’. When combined, words magnify each other beyond their denotations; think of the word kiss – now combine it in use with slap, [as in perhaps 'slap a kiss on my cheek'] or compare love with lust, fail with pass, or work with play!

I have a few favorite contrasting 4 (and 5) letter words. I ponder at times the dark just before the dawn, the fear that may precede faith and the doubt that can only be resolved through hope. The meaning of these words seems amplified in paired associations. United into one sentence and joined to my experience and inspirations these particular words become almost deafening. They are heartening, calm and still. They speak the unspoken words, "Be still and know that I am God" and then none at all, in the mouth or mind.

Still, like silence that is so quiet I almost hold my breath.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Did you ever see a coach signal ‘time out’? It’s a distinctive hand signal.

I see it used mostly in jest between peers, among many that are younger than I am, as in “TOO MUCH INFORMATION”! – STOP - that is too personal, too complicated or not really what I asked - accompanied with the statement T-M-I !!!

Some days I wish I could do that – signal ‘time out’ – TMI – I don’t want to know - except I do. I just wish I didn’t. Basically I am of a decently curious ilk but there are things I don’t think about, search out or learn until it affects me personally.

Being diagnosed with possible ‘sarcoma’ is one of those things – are you serious? POSSIBLE! really? Oh – and now the specialist of specialists thinks this thing (15cm x 9cm x 8cm – visualize your two fists side by side and fit them into a muscle in your thigh) is definitely NOT a sarcoma but is only a benign atypical lipoma – am I supposed to shout for joy? Kiss the clinically sterile pronouncing face in relief? What do you do with this kind of news – of both kinds?

I learn things I never really wanted to know. I ask for second and even third opinions. And then I make decisions – decisions I never really wanted to need to make.

If you don’t want to know, TMI, click the X at the top of the page now. Below is actually the good news – and TMI.

And BTW – if this isn’t TMI simply copy any one of the terms below into your browser and then click on every linked word you see – you should be able to reach your personal TMI threshold easily.

The division of cells to produce new ones is under tight control by the "genes" within each cell. These genes are made up of DNA, and if it becomes damaged, that cell may start dividing out of control. Soft Tissue Cancer starts in a single cell which has become abnormal. This cell produces millions, and eventually billions, of copies of itself. The copies are called" clones". These clones fail to function as normal body tissue, but instead divert resources from healthy cells to fuel their own growth. When there are about 1 billion cells, they form a clump, or "tumor" 1/2 inch across. A "tumor" merely means a swelling; it can be caused by infection, inflammation, cancer or whatever.

If a tumor can only grow in its local area (even very large) but does not have the capacity to spread to distant body areas, it is called "benign" and is not cancer. If, however, the tumor has the ability to spread to distant body areas, it is called "malignant" and this is cancer. The actual process of spread is called" metastasis", and can occur to any area of the body.

For benign Soft Tissue tumors, they are commonly given the suffix "oma" The most common types of benign tumor are "Lipoma " (from fat), "Leiomyoma " (from smooth muscle) and "Fibroma " (from fibrous tissue). These benign tumors may grow very large, but they will never "metastasize" (spread distantly) and so are not considered "cancer". Simply removing them surgically should be curative, and if surgery is not practical then radiation therapy will often shrink them. Unless they are disturbing body function or cosmetic appearance, they often require NO THERAPY.

For malignant Soft Tissue tumors, they are commonly given the suffix"sarcoma." This means a cancer that has arisen from the mesenchymal tissue, as opposed to "carcinomas", which develop from the body's lining tissues and organs. Any tumor that is called a "sarcoma" is cancerous, but not all cancerous mesenchymal tumors end with "sarcoma ”. However, the common ones do, and include "Liposarcoma"(from fat cells), "Rhabdomyosarcoma" (from skeletal muscle cells), "Leiomyosarcoma" (from smooth muscle cells), "Fibrosarcoma" (from fibrous cells) and "Chondrosarcoma" (from cartilage cells). "Osteosarcoma" is the most common bone cancer, but is not considered a"Soft Tissue Sarcoma" and is discussed as a "Primary Bone Tumor."

 Other, rarer types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma (which may or may not have the word "sarcoma" in them) include "Angiosarcoma" (divided into Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphangiosarcoma-- from blood or lymph vessels), "Hemangiopericytoma"(also from a blood vessel cell),"Mesothelioma" (from abdominal or lung linings), "Synovial Sarcoma" (from joint linings), "Neurofibrosarcoma" (from nerve sheaths), "Kaposi'sSarcoma (origin uncertain) and "Malignant Fibrous Histioctyoma" (from fibrous tissue). Some of the above are more aggressive than others, but they are all cancer!

How Common is Soft Tissue Sarcoma?
Each year in there about 8,000 new cases of "Soft Tissue Sarcoma" in the United States, which cause approximately 2,500 deaths per year. Thus, they represent ~1% of all new cancers. Soft Tissue Sarcoma is about 3 times more common than Bone Sarcoma. There are two "peaks" of most common patient age, one in childhood at 10 years old and the other in 40 year old adults. Thus Sarcomas are unlike the other major type of cancer, "Carcinomas" (e.g. breast, lung, prostate, colo-rectal) which all tend to get more likely as we age. Males and Females are overall equally affected by Sarcomas. In children, the most common type of Soft Tissue Sarcoma is "Rhabdomyosarcoma" (from skeletal muscle cells), which occur mostly in the Head and Neck areas. In adults, the most common type is now "Fibrosarcoma"or "Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma", which tends to occur in the trunk or extremities. In contrast to childhood cases, the least common area for adult sarcomas is in the Head and Neck area. Overall, the number of new cases of Soft Tissue Sarcoma has remained stable for the past 3 decades.

The common underlying factor is damage to "DNA" which causes the affected cell to become "transformed" -- that is lose control over it's division. Cancer is ultimately a disease of the DNA! The DNA is packed into thousands of "genes", which are themselves located upon the 48 "chromosomes" (46 general plus 2 sex chromosomes) that all healthy humans have in every cell. The chromosomes become visible under an ordinary light microscope when cells divide, and nearly every case of Sarcoma shows chromosome damage. This damage usually includes pieces missing from chromosomes ("deletions"), or even parts of one chromosome getting stuck onto another ("translocations") Overall, anything which can damage DNA, the fundamental genetic material, will increase the risk of a cell turning cancerous. This damage may be "latent", meaning a cancer may arise many years or decades after the damage occurs.

Can Sarcomas Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent sarcomas. It is always a good idea to avoid unnecessary exposure to potential carcinogens and avoid unwarranted X-rays. This is especially true for patients with family susceptibility to cancers, or who actually have genetic diseases.
If a worrisome sign or symptom arises (see below) it should be evaluated promptly, and not ascribed to some benign process without proof. Eating a diet with enough vitamin C ("Ascorbic Acid") is important for proper maintainance and healing of soft tissues. Vitamin C deficiency results in a breakdown of the soft tissues ("scurvy"), since it is essential for crosslinking their crucial collagen proteins. However, taking too much can also be harmful by causing the blood to become too acidic ("ascorbic acidemia"). A standard supplement multi-vitamin is well advised.

The human muscular system is incredibly engineered, providing for body support, movement, and the storage of sugar energy in the form of glycogen. There are 3 basic types of muscle in the body: Skeletal Muscle for voluntary movement, Smooth Muscle for involuntary processes like digestion, and Cardiac Muscle in the heart. Normally the muscles are a very trouble-free system, maintained by simple activity and exercise. Rarely, however, cancers called "sarcomas" arise from muscle. Smooth muscle gives rise to "myosarcoma", and skeletal muscle to "rhabdomyosarcoma". see also: Pleomorphic type or pleomorphism. Usually seen in adults and arises in muscles of the extremities

It is crucial to get prompt diagnosis and proper treatment for a muscle cancer problem. This can make the difference between keeping or losing a limb, or even between life and death. Fortunately, recent advancements in therapy make limb loss less likely, and cure more like, than ever before. Understanding your options for a Muscle Cancer problem will give you the peace of mind of knowing you have done everything possible to help ensure a happy outcome.

'CancerAnswers' material explains, in plain English, the definition, types, frequency, risk factors, symptoms, evaluation, historic and latest effective treatment for Muscle Cancers. We tell you everything you must know to make the right choices today to deal with a Muscle Cancer problem.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

COWS - a diatribe

Long automobile trips are often tediously boring. When I have too much time I think – a lot.

After several monotonous hours of the same rocky dirt and gray green sagebrush a cow was a welcome interesting relief – visually and mentally. I began to watch for more: surely there is more than one lone cow along such a long road. I was rewarded. There were many cows to observe - not that there was much to observe.

What does a cow do?

Cows may be many different colors but not like a rainbow. Cows are generally tones and patches of black and white and a variety of browns shading through reds to every earth tone I have ever imagined. They are the source of many common and useful products such as milk, meat, leather, glue and – well - really, too many more things to list. Even the wastes cows produce are useful to grow verdant crops and gardens.
But what do they do; really - day in, day out - besides exist? 

Every cow I ever see is doing one of a few simple things: standing - chewing a cud or grazing; walking or running - nowhere in particular, for no reason in particular other than perhaps curiosity (except when being chased or seeking food and water) or else lowing – emitting that typical moo moo sound cows make, that occasionally might become loud and insistent enough to be described by my father as bellering. On the farm we saw many cow personalities - some placid, some feisty but most still fit my question. I remember one that didn't. She was a fence hopper. She spent every day hopping fences. Dad tried many tricks to keep her safe but eventually she 'went to a sale' - became 'beef'.

I ruminated upon this concept for a time and it generated a question to alleviate boredom: what do I do?

Now there is a question – am I, as a woman, much different than a cow?
Do I squander my time like a cow in a field chewing her cud and my energy running away from, or to see, curiosities? Am I just to be looked at or am I just making fat – beefing up (or trying to avoid it)? Is my existence of more value than my ‘meat’ - my physical body - or the making of milk, babies or other useful products?

(Men you are not off the hook either. Don’t feel like you don’t qualify as “beef” or at least ‘bull-oney’ – snicker – come on, laugh at yourself. At least cows have high production rates not to mention self replacement value and - BTW – do you let your wife know she is accomplishing more in life than a cow? is worth more in your life? means more to you than the money she earns, the dishes and clothes she washes and the children you share? Does the woman in your life know she is more than a cow?)

I have answers to many of my questions, yet I do measure myself against them.

I am a daughter of God - all women are, so are all men - a child of the Supreme Being Himself and His wife.

My father has many talents and abilities. I have inherited some abilities from him and I have learned many wise and wonderful things from him. What am I capable of learning as a child of God? I can only imagine what I might have inherited or be able to learn from my Father in Heaven. 

I have more going for me than any cow: much more than a drudgery of days – day in, day out - so do you! God loves each and every one of us individually, uniquely and personally. We ARE his children.

I became invigorated to do something more each day than eating and mooing. I became determined to try to avoid things that make me feel like a cow – determined to participate in purposeful engaging productive, planned activity every day.

At a CES Fireside for Young Adults, 3 May 2009 David A. Bednar (also see June 2010 Ensign, pg 22-31) spoke at length about ‘Things As They Really Are’ and appropriate use of our time and physical being and cautioned, “We need to heed the admonition of Paul: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

At milking time each cow has a stanchion the locks about her head and holds her in one place. The cow usually will be given hay and/or grain (a treat for cows) while in the stanchion and eat quietly while being milked.  Most cows are creatures of habits to the extent that if a new cow enters another’s place the ensuing chaos almost brings the barn down.  Every farmer knows tricks to train a cow into a new habit (often using feed or calves).

At feeding time cows are greedy and will trample each other and their food unless guided and restrained. If routines do not occur in precise and predictable patterns at accustomed times a cow can become very upset and moo incessantly. I have to ask myself, “Do I constantly moo for moooorree?get upset with change or am I grateful for the blessings I have?"

My habits can build and lift or destroy – me and those about me. I can make excuses and complain about the things that limit me or I can seek out ways to contribute.  I once heard a family history story of an old man in his 90’s that was physically unable to work long strenuous hours as he had done all his life. He sat near a forge and made nails. In that era nails were not machine produced but rather hammered out of scrap metal one at a time. In this way he could still contribute to the family and make productive use of his time.

I wrote the following on my mirror: ‘Don’t let the things you can’t do interfere with the things you CAN!”

I still ask myself, “What does a cow do all day?”

I also ask myself, “What do I do?”

Monday, June 14, 2010


As I transplanted zinnias and marigolds, calendulas and snapdragons this spring, my hands in the dirt and the required, and repeated water sprinkled morning, noon and night (for several days) bade characterized images of my parents onto the stage of my mind.

Early spring on the farm always started with a crop of new babies – baby animals and plants.  New life of all kinds abounded. 

Some babies began life robust and seemingly invincible but others seemed too small and fragile to ever withstand the inevitable rigors of existence.  Every litter seems to have a runt – the littlest one that gets pushed and stepped on or crawled over in the fierce competition for nursing  - and often dies; and every garden seems to have a place where plants struggle for root or light, water or warmth.  

My father watched over all the animals each year but he took special notice of the littlest ones.   A significant part of my childhood memories about my father see him descending stairs to an unfinished basement with carefully warmed milk for a calf or lamb or piglet. Permanently etched on my mind’s eye is the bright spot (from a heat lamp) with him but a shadow bent over the injured or ill animals, diligently feeding them every hour on the hour.

He told me once that the smaller they are the more often they must be fed.  Their tummies are tiny and they can only take in small amounts, and when they are weak just swallowing the liquid takes a lot of effort.  He saved many a dying or motherless baby by dribbling liquid into its mouth forced open by his thumb and then holding its mouth closed so the liquid had no place to drip but down the throat. 

As soon as calves or lambs could stand on their own and suck he would take them back to the barn.  He had many strategies to ‘encourage’ a cow or a ewe to allow the stranger to suckle with (or instead of) their own baby.  I have seen two calves yoked together at the neck.  If one eats the other can also.  I have also seen the skin of a dead calf or lamb wrapped and tied onto a weak living calf or lamb placed into a pen with the mother whose baby died.  They usually will, eventually, accept that calf or lamb as their own and raise it.  This procedure also meant long hours supervising the newborn; placing it in the pen and taking it out, making sure it was dry and clean, and even using a tube to get vital medicine into its stomach. 

I also watched his bowed head and slumped shoulders when nothing helped and the animal died.  His sorrow wasn’t just for the money each represented in a stringent budget.  I felt and heard and saw his reverence for life. I also felt that consequence of illness or death keenly if some neglect or laziness on my part contributed to it.

My mother tended the house and garden.  The kittens and puppies were even tinier and by the way, cats will nurse dogs and dogs will nurse cats and care for them like their own sometimes. 

Mom’s image is very different from my father’s.  I can see her hair, tussled with the breeze and her shoulders silhouetted against a grey blue sky full with scudding white, puffy clouds.   She leans, imprinted laughing there in my thoughts, on a rake or hoe or shovel, surrounded by dirt and rocks and flowers and children . 

My mother taught me how to transplant things and showed me the seeds emerging from their husks as they poked up out of the ground unfurling leaves. She also showed me rocks to pick.  I often wondered – can rocks have babies?  No matter how many we graveled into the mud hole in the driveway there were always more each spring. 

Mother taught the delicate handling of kittens or pups with still shut eyes.  She taught that less handling is often more because of how fragile something may be: both animals and people.  From her I learned that seeds need water, that they may need cold and dark as well as sunlight and warmth, and that above all else diligence is required. You can plant a seed properly, get it to sprout and begin to grow AND miss one watering and have it visibly stunted or even die. 

Mom showed me detail: tiny emerging carrot seed feathers so easily crushed by rocks and clods - feet or dirt; fascinating soil textures – slick, sticky wet clay that hardened like rock and glittering bits of sand as well the black loam developed from manured years of toil and till; birds and buds in all their varied glory or color and sound; and even the rocks themselves, wet or dry, along with discarded broken bits of lives (ceramic, glass, china, and rusted metal  toys and tools) that surfaced continually. (Our garden occupied the former site of several homes that had been relocated as the village moved away).  

Each spring I learn again and then add to the childhood lessons of tenacity and tenderness, diverstiy and diligence instilled by loving parents.  Parents that lived the precepts they taught;  goodly parents;  parents with reverence and respect for all good things.  A mother AND a father, that showed not told and followed thorough instruction about work or sorrow, joy and laughter with accountability. Parents! 


Thursday, June 10, 2010


Recently my hubby and I helped our youngest son plant a garden plot.  The afternoon was windy and clouded over as we drove 1 ½ hours to his home.  As we arrived large drops of rain randomly splashed - one here – another there – not enough to be noticed unless one hit you dead on – then you might wonder where the water came from or if it might rain; but you might be missed 
– and then there was a break and the sun came out.

He showed me his overgrown but beautiful white and purple lilac bushes lining the property.  I showed him how to hoe the rows and commented, “I sure hope we don’t get wet.”
He matter-of-factly replied, “It’s not going to rain.”

The next time I made a weather related comment a slow drip, drip drop of sprinkling had begun.  I was worried.  This was our one shot, only available time to get the job done. He again told me not to worry.  Emphatically he said, “Mom – believe – it is not going to rain.”  The sprinkling stopped and the steady breeze dried us to only damp.  He was right.   The dirt still had dust under a skim of moist soil.  We continued to plant. 

He hoed, I tossed down seeds in the rows and Papa covered them with soil – or some variation of that rotation.  The drip, drip drop started again – steadily this time.  I grimly refused to comment another time.  The weather itself would settle the matter and I was already damp.  The water that formed into droplets and fell from my hair onto my royal blue, gardening over-shirt or ran down my neck occasionally was indistinguishable from the spreading, darkening (to a bright navy) as the shirt became wet enough to start to seep through to my t-shirt.

Funny etched looking, dry footprints walked behind each of us as our feet picked up enough of the shallow mud layer to make thick clods that could be shaken off after a few steps. We were almost finished. While I planted a watermelon, and tomato and pepper sets they dug in several rows of pre-cut seed potatoes.  Corn, carrot, pea, bean, pumpkin, lettuce and cucumber seeds lay nicely ordered in rows marked at each end with small stones that had tilled to the surface during soil preparation.  I felt smug at how our persistence might pay dividends; if the rain continued, the dry seeds would be soaked with no effort on our part at no cost to us.

Rainy gusts alternated with random misty sprinkles. While Papa put away tools and finished the last details, my son and I headed for the front and side flower beds to place a few flower seeds.  (Someone had given him quite a few packages of seeds and we had also transplanted some spaghetti squash starts someone had provided.)  As we opened the seemingly frivolous flower seeds the sky also seemed to open.  Quickly we buried the seed and ran to the car but it was too late.  I peeled off my dripping over-shirt.  It was wet enough to wring water from its long twill tails.

We laughed – that previous little bit of sprinkling wasn’t rain.
This was rain!

As we drove away to look at some nicely pruned lilacs we had seen across town

the windshield of the car looked like the stream from a fire hose was washing over it.  The wipers at their fastest speed could not keep up.  We drove slowly and chuckled.  It hadn’t rained; at least not until we had finished the requisite gardening.  My heart was full of thanks.  God had stilled a storm even as I doubted and mentally muttered.

My attitude thought I was enduring rain.  Then the weather settled the matter – and watered the garden too. Pounding rain continued the rest of the evening. I felt humbled.  

When we returned home we could see the wind had displaced many things in our area and significant moisture had fallen.  The next morning we heard news reports of a small tornado that twisted the barn of a local farmer into a heap.

God had indeed stilled a genuine storm.  He knows our every need.  And we always can trust Him to know what is best for each of us.  My own attitude is the real difference.

Has it rained on you yet?

(Sure - it may have a tornado in it.) 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When rain falls I really must look for rainbows, knowing they are real, and hug those memories tightly to a still (though pulsing) heart as I gaze through wet gray skies (or eyes) remembering the sun (and promises). 

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray, someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believe

I believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Will still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word

Every time I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe

Every time I hear a new born baby cry,
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe

(Erwin Drake - Irvin Graham - Jimmy Shirl - Al Stillman)

Friday, June 4, 2010


About a month ago I noticed a new spot on that I decided to investigate. New things on there are usually pretty easy to notice if you poke around at all - and even if you don't really poke around at all.

I began to use as my homepage earlier this year when offensive ads began popping in for a visit more and more frequently on the homepage I had been using.  I now see the LDS page every time I use the Internet and tend to wander around a bit and explore what ever pops up new.  (Not a bad habit, btw, if you happen to have a calling - always regularly check the section that applies to it under 'serving in the church' for new instructions, information and policy changes or directions. They are added all the time and are extremely useful.)

This newbie particularly intrigued me because a few years ago we were cautioned specifically about using the complete and proper name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to refer to it and instructed regarding using the term 'Mormon' too frequently. Years ago, when I heard about a site '' I didn't really use it or explore it because the church HAS an official site, namely - I saw no point to an additional site but this new spot directed me to 'new' and explained how it was being updated.

So - off I toddled to experience whatever was waiting on the other site.  What an experience! TWANNGGG!!! My psyche got a stretching that has taken me all of May.  I completed the requested profile but it was incredibly difficult - quite unexpectedly. I am still wondering why.  I have no reservations about sharing my thoughts and feelings regarding my religious beliefs.  I thought creating a profile would be a fun and simple exercise.  It turned out to be genuine exercise - almost aerobic.

You may enjoy trying it - or not. :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


2 people + 1 bunch of bananas = 1 black banana (every time).

It's a guaranteed formula. Naturally this raises questions like hackles on a cornered animal. I even know some of the answers. Some though are definitely an enigma.

The one pictured here is well on its way - abandoned in the fruit bowl (empty of everything except junk like half full seed packets and binoculars etc that accumulate unbidden to fill the vacuum of space the eating of fruit creates).

Are we waiting for the other person to eat it? Sounds possible.

Are we so unselfish that we want to make sure someone else can eat it? Even when we see it starting to have tiny brown warning spots and it is still tasty. Nope that isn't my problem - if I felt like eating it I would just peel it and chow down.  That is how the second to last banana often gets eaten - usually with a random bit of peanut butter (which by the way I do not really like except a couple times a year - maybe).

 Is it permitted or prudent to encourage my husband to be selfish? Go ahead honey, eat that banana - you can have it.

 I do realize some people wait for bananas to get to this stage of ripeness.  I wish they would come to visit.

Do we not really like bananas anyway? Maybe that is it.  I like them only slightly better than peanut butter but I do like one every now and then - just not after they get brown spots - even tiny ones.

Do we buy too big of a bunch to start with?  I have tried buying littler bananas and breaking bunches into smaller numbers so that isn't it.

Am I just too lazy to make banana bread? My intentions are always good when I put it in the freezer.)

How come I am always the one to freeze it or throw it away? Eventually I am also the one to throw it out when it is black in the freezer - it is only one occasional banana since I don't buy many in the first place.

Seriously.  No one else that ever walks through my house will throw away a black oozing banana. It is charmed until my guilt overwhelms me and I finally toss it. Bananas!

This drives me Bananas! Except for this one thing I may not have a guilt bone in my body.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


"Slightest actions often meet the sorest needs, For the world wants daily little kindly deeds ..." hymn 230

Tim, the clerk at the Post Office, reinforced my belief that most human beings are kind and generous.  It was near Christmas a couple of years ago that he saved my week.  I was on a tight deadline - you know the kind - you might squeak in under the wire with a minute to spare or at least get where you belong and slide into place only one minute late.  I was in the long parcel post line snail crawling to the counter;  finally it was my turn to step forward.  The parcel priced out cheap - less than $10 - maybe less than $5. That was when I discovered I had misplaced my chequebook.  I almost melted. Tim simply and quietly said to me, "I will put this amount in for you - just bring it in to me when you can".
I was dumbfounded. Really? A complete stranger was willing to pay for my parcel to be mailed AND trust me to 'bring it to him later' - at my convenience? I protested - but not much. My parcel made the deadline for its mailing. My schedule was not disrupted; in fact it was cleared and the following morning I returned the man's money.
I am not sure what affected me more - just the simplicity of my schedule miraculously allowing me to meet my  responsibilities (you know the feeling of triumph when you arrive on time or even a minute early AND got everything done) or the basic trust a stranger placed in me (that made that triumph possible).  I don't think it was a big deal to him. He received the money back with barely a trace of a smile - his usual face - and a quiet, "thank you, I  knew you'd come back." Did that make a difference to him? I hope so, but I can't imagine anything achieving the magnitude of influence his sincere and unselfish action had for me.