BOTTLED

  • "Beauty is the secret sound of the deepest thereness of things." John O'Donohue

Friday, July 30, 2010

AGELESS


There is a two year old that lives at my house – no silly, not me – a real genuine 2 year old – my granddaughter, Cynthia.

Soon after her arrival her mother warned us she might establish some overt ownership.  When I got up from the couch to walk I found myself tugging vainly on my cane as she announced, “Mine,” and clasped it firmly in her death grip.

I felt like a 2 year old. I let go. I made do with my walker.

When I returned she was seated on the couch with my blanket and cane.  “Mine,” she said. 

I sat on a soft chair until she moved long enough and far enough that I could hobble to the couch and lay down again.  She glared at me and went directly to the walker.  “Cyndi’s” she claimed and entertained herself until nap time discovering its wheels and brakes, folding and unfolding it, and sitting on the seat that she accidentally popped into place. 

There is a funny saying about ‘what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is mine, if I see it its mine etc.’If anyone has it please send it to me - I want to post it on my frig.

 I am NOT willing to play tug-a-war with a child repetitively.  I pondered, “how can I get what is mine?” – hey, wait a minute, something about that word, mine, has a familiar  ring to it. Am I acting like a 2 year old too?  Is my attitude all about ownership, about ME?

I thought about my sweet little Cyndi and how much she must miss all that was known in her small world before she moved to this new place.  Even her daddy is far away and she only sees and hears him on the phone.  I realized she doesn’t even know what might be hers.  Do I know what is ‘mine’?

I felt a calm realization that nothing is mine and all I have and am I have been blessed with by my loving Father in Heaven.  He promises me that he will share everything he has with me and even tells me how to get it.  He tells me all the ways to achieve everything he has and is.  He calls those suggestions and directions commandments. He even sent his son, Jesus Christ, to show me how to obey and to set an example for me. I wonder if I can set an example for Cyndi.

The next time I need to walk and reach for my cane my granddaughter again grips it and emphatically claims, “mine”.  I smile at her and say, “OK Cynthia, it is yours. Will you share it with me? Please help me walk.”  She loves to help.  She handed over the cane and carefully supervised its use. 

Cynthia now owns most of my house and yard.  That’s OK because we share.  The more she ‘owns’ the more secure she seems to feel and the more willing she is to share and ‘help’. I consider all the things I think I own. I wonder if I am willing to share with others and 'help' them.  

Tonight I winced when I stood up from supper.  I am still having some residual pain occasionally. Sometimes the pain takes me by surprise and I don’t hide it well. Cynthia noticed my funny face.  “You K?” she asked; that surprised me too. When I initially was unable to respond, she asked again, “you K?” Then, in her baby angel voice she inquired, “walker?” and repeated, “walker?’ until I reassured her I was fine.

I hope I can follow her example of care and concern for those around me.  Perhaps I can become more able to follow the Master’s plan and example as I try to do so.  I hope I can always be willing to share too, willing to give – as well as to take; willing to follow a child’s innocent example.

Perhaps I can still learn it’s not all about me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ABSITIVELY POSOLUTELY

I have not walked in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, or Judea.  I have not visited Gethsemane, Golgotha or the Sea of Galilee.  I have not visited Nauvoo, Palmyra, or seen the Sacred Grove or Hill Cumorah.  I have not attended General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and I have not met a prophet or apostle in person.  I don’t need to. Witnessing the physical realities of these tangible things, as compared with seeing them in film or on the internet, would not cause me to know more surely the intangible absolutes that I carry in my heart and mind.

I am a simple person that has lived a simple life limited primarily to my family, near acquaintances and friends, and those I have met through employment or volunteering in the communities I have lived in.  Few people have left a lasting impression on my memory and I suppose even fewer would remember me - I am OK with that - I know we all influence and are influenced in imperceptible ways and by imprecise, imperfect means.

One significant reason causes those that have made a lasting mark to stay fresh in memory: something they did – positive or otherwise - fundamentally changed the manner of thought I have and I became a different being than I was previously. 

I hope that if I am remembered by anyone it is because I have helped them to know one surety - It is summed up in the 1st Article of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – I will quote and paraphrase it as I often find it in my thoughts.

I [ me – a simple, very ordinary and sometimes pathetic being] BELIEVE in God, The Eternal Father [a loving father who loves me and each and every single human being so greatly we cannot begin to understand it], in His son Jesus Christ [my Savior and Redeemer] and in the Holy Ghost [whose reality at times leaves me stunned in awe].

I know with absolute certainty that God is our father in heaven. I know that Jesus Christ is his son.  I know of their grace and mercy in my life and wish I could give every person I see and meet that same assurance of their reality and of their love. I have received that knowledge as a grand gift and it gives hope and peace and strength. 

These things are among the intangible absolutes that transcend even my own existence.  I know.

 God knows I know.  I know – really.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SONGS IN MY HEART

I learned the words to many songs during my childhood and youth – many of them were hymns – some mere nonsense and others music popular to the time.  The words and sound of most of those songs seem as much a part of me as my fingers or toes, my hair or my nose.

Ephesians 5:19–20 says, “… [Speak] to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

At my request, my husband played the piano today – I said, “just pick something soothing-ish.” (He knows, btw, that I detest dirges). He sat and began to play a song that is one of my favorites: 

“Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
 Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world
… Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves for me.”

I learned this song, 'My Heavenly Father Loves Me', intimately when I taught it to young children in sign language. (I was working as an ASL Interpreter for kindergarten students at that time and taught a deaf child that age in the Primary class at church that I was assigned to. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known by the nickname Mormon's, provides many valuable resources free of charge.)  Seeking just the right turn of phrase or culturally accepted idiom to transliterate is always fun: keeping it simple enough for a young child is doubly so.

My husband then began to play Hymn 142, "Sweet Hour of Prayer".  He says he chose it randomly. I found myself praising God for the magnanimous blessings I feel in my life every day. In 1946 George Albert Smith said, "I wonder sometimes if we realize the importance of music. I wonder if we know that the Lord himself is concerned about it. He has given us the information that the song of praise is a prayer unto him. . . . It [is] our privilege, yea, our blessing, to sing and . . . our songs should be sung in righteousness."

1. Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

2. Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
Thy wings shall my petition bear
To him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless.
And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
I’ll cast on him my ev’ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!

Text: Attr. to William W. Walford, 1772–1850, alt.
Music: William B. Bradbury, 1816–1868, alt.
Psalm 55:16–17, 22
Philippians 4:6–7


And then my husband began a song I did not know well. I could only call to mind a snatch here and a phrase there, Hymn 157. I had to ask him the name and get to book to refresh it in my mind.  I remember "Thy Spirit Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls" but it is not a song I know well - yet it felt as if I did. Neal A. Maxwell taught, "When we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art, and great music, it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time." May Ensign 1984 pg 21 

1. Thy Spirit, Lord, has stirred our souls,
And by its inward shining glow
We see anew our sacred goals
And feel thy nearness here below.
No burning bush near Sinai
Could show thy presence, Lord, more nigh.

2. “Did not our hearts within us burn?”
We know the Spirit’s fire is here.
It makes our souls for service yearn;
It makes the path of duty clear.
Lord, may it prompt us, day by day,
In all we do, in all we say.


Text: Frank I. Kooyman, 1880–1963. © 1948 IRI
Music: Alexander Schreiner, 1901–1987. © 1948 IRI
Mosiah 5:2
Luke 24:32 (13–35)

In Colossians 3:16 we read, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."


Boyd K. Packer a prophet in this, our time, has taught many times about music. He tells us,  "The Spirit does not ratify speech nor confirm music which lacks spiritual substance ... the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!President Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1991, 22  


Other prophets have also instructed us extensively about the media we place in our minds. (See Russel M. Nelson, 'The Power and Protection of Worthy Music' or David A. Bednar, 'Things As They Really Are')


I am not a musician; you might cringe to hear my vocal chords attempt to sing; but gratitude brings tears to my eyes and silences my mouth when I hear such music. Spencer W. Kimball explained that, "We are in a position, as musicians, to touch the souls of those who listen." Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 520 


The best I can do is to pass along great music I find and to listen to the media I encounter selectively.


The First Presidency teaches further, "The hymns can bring families to a spirit of beauty and peace and can inspire love and unity among family members. Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones" (First Presidency preface to Hymns, page x).


I think I will sing more
I think I will take the prophets at their word. 
I think my mother did. She learned it from her mother.


I am grateful. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

HOLLYHOCK DOLLS

My mother taught me to make dolls with Hollyhock flowers. She says she learned it from her mother.


I made 2 this morning to see if I could show a granddaughter - she was delighted.

Years ago when I asked, my grandmother said, "everyone knows how to make them - anyone could have [taught me]."

my maternal grandparents in their yard
July 24 is a day of celebration and commemoration for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is commonly known and celebrated as Pioneer Day. We remember our ancestors and others that were pioneers in all contexts. Our family often spent it with my mother's parents.

Our family has many progenitors that came to North America from Europe seeking liberty and freedoms not readily available in their homelands in the 16th and 17th centuries. They settled along the east coast and as we study the founding history of the United States and Canada we find their names and deeds laced throughout our reading.

We find it fascinating!

Our heritage also threads through the history of the LDS church. Many of our 3rd and 4th great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers knew Joseph Smith and declared him an honorable, honest and noble man and joined their futures and fortunes to the church and its teachings. We have many of their journals, letters, photos and other documents (but no hollyhock doll instructions).

The lives of our ancestors consisted of work, hobbies and other pastimes that are becoming forgotten. Hollyhock dolls were a part of the play of many children of past centuries. This is my attempt to preserve a pleasure I took for granted. I remember helping my mother water the few flowers and shrubs near our home with buckets of water pumped by hand from a carefully primed well.


Every drop of water was precious and doled out with care. Hollyhocks grew near many pioneer cabins and dugout hovels because they survive with little water and, with the luxury of water left over from cleaning and mopping, they thrive.

Just a small aside here: liquids really could be scarce and were not wasted. Every edible liquid was used for meal preparation. Every bucket of water had many uses. After being used to wash dishes, water could be used to clean boots or scrub the floor. At bath time babies were bathed first, then ladies - just add another kettle to warm it up a bit, then children and lastly the caked-with-dirt-and-grime men; in the same tub of water! This 'bath' water also had many uses.  After water became 'almost mud' then the vegetables were watered and lastly the flowers.

Hollyhocks come in many colors, sizes and varieties. They can grow well over 6 feet or more in height.

Some people claim they can be eaten so children that are inclined to taste things or put them in their mouths will not be harmed by them. I think they are fairly tasteless except for the white part - it is said to be bitter. 

Many years have passed since I made these dolls but when my daughter asked about how to do it I decided to try to make some even though I only had a couple of smallish pink and darker reddish Hollyhock plants that summer. 

This would be called a 'skirt' - larger is better - after all we want a 'full' skirt - but if you want a more narrow skirt pick a bloom that is not opened so far - use your imagination.


In the upper right is a partially open bud - this could be a head/bonnet or you could use a smaller tighter bud like you will see in the next picture.


My first try was just to stick them together. Since I couldn't quite remember how that was accomplished I used what was at hand, cheated, picked up a rusty nail and punched a hole.

Here is the first doll -


I didn't think it looked right and I remembered having to peel some layers and not using a nail or anything to put a hole in it - seemed like there should be a hole or at least a weak point to push the stem through ...


so I picked a new bud - red so you can see the difference and a bit more open (notice it has 2 layers of green around the base of the flower just above the stem that is pointing at you)


and I begin to peel away the first layer of green


being very careful to not damage the bud or deeper layers - I don't want anything falling apart (not that anything ever did - don't worry so much - it won't)
-
and this is a close up so you can see it coming apart

- popped right off - with the guidance of a sharp fingernail


and this is where I expected to see the hole but nope - I did see a softer area so I tried it - wouldn't push in there so -


cheating again - use every resource at hand - still have that old nail left in the flower bed (from after the wind blew away part of our roof and it was replaced) - no matter how many I pick up there seems to always be one more.


and I plunge it in and make a hole,


and push in the stem of the 'skirt',

seat them together

and I have a new doll -


but I think this takes way more imagination than we use to use -

where are the little eyes that I remember, and why did we so aptly pretend it had a bonnet like a Spanish dancing lady ...

and I do not remember using any sticks or tools to make them or hold them together  ...


what if I took away the second layer of green?

what is under there?


not much besides what I already had but what if I go a bit deeper - just on the flat 'base' end circle part that kind of looks like it should give way ...


I scrape away a scrap of green still clinging and viola


there it is - there is a tiny little hole in there

- just like I remembered ...


and the pinky on the right flicks out a piece of debris in the way


as I position the stem of the 'skirt' to go up into the 'head' - but the curl won't push in so I shorten it a tiny bit and then it will - it had to be a bit stiffer I suppose


and push it in


all the way snug against each other

OHH! Look! a dolly with eyes and a huge headdress - no wonder we had so much fun with these - we'd make a bevy of beauties and then they would socialize and play - their dresses all unique - short green bustles, aprons and collars, sometimes many layers of parts added on or pinched off.

I loved the variegated edged ones and some blooms were considerably larger and therefore longer than these; also the buds could be 'bent' from funny growth into curious oddities that might give it more personality -


see the bustle of a leaf that hasn't separated? Imagination is the key ingredient here.

And really no cheating (with a nail to punch a hole or things to hold them together) is needed.

I was quite surprised too when I left them in the sun on the step but several hours later was showing off to a neighbor that came by and they were still looking quite fresh not wilted - when I tugged on them to show her how they were put together they were stuck fast and difficult to remove - like the sap was a seal - COOL!!!

Sometimes, as a child, I would make believe the top was the body and her arms were thrown up in the dance with a swirl that hid the 'head' inside - sure enough - look inside and see the fuzzy pollen head.


With bit of fern like plants or grasses etc many fanciful creatures were created. Give it a try. If you e-mail me [ liforames@gmail.com ] photos of your creations I will add them here for everyone to enjoy. HAPPY IMAGINING!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

20/20 SEQUEL

Dad making wisecracks to mom during pictures 
My youngest son, age 24, called the other day.  He is staying with his grandparents (in Canada) while working this summer.  “Mom,” he said, “did you ever think about how wonderful fingernails are? I am so glad I have no problems with fingernails  - or toenails.”

Random!  I hadn’t even written 20/20 yet but it was on my mind.  His remarks that day clinched my need to make an attempt to record my feelings and thoughts.

He can be a bit random at times. His favorite answer to any question is ‘7’.  Just ‘7’ – it makes me laugh.  He likes to help people laugh – and he thinks – the thinking is what makes him seem a bit random, I think. His thought process can be explained and is very logical, but at times it leaves others in the dust like RoadRunner and Coyote.

My son also told me how grateful he is for his teeth, and his eyes.  Then he expounded at length about the ability to walk and work.  He was preaching to the choir here!

My daughter captured this candid moment
of mom and dad on a swing
during their granddaughter's wedding reception
He also spoke in awe of the love my parents share. They have been married more than 60 years. He is trying to find someone to share an eternal relationship with.  He is amazed at their faith and good cheer.

Yesterday I spent quite a while visiting with my mother on the phone.

My mother is a living breathing miracle – she is like that bunny battery commercial – she just keeps on going through it all:  she gets a priesthood blessing often and sees doctors as needed.

She has endured the birth and rearing of 10 children (with Rh negative factor) on a small farm - in a 3 bedroom no-indoor-bathroom-until-I-was-approximately-15 house, lived 40 + years past a brain tumour (after being told she had 6 months or less to live), multiple major surgeries and broken bones, severe high blood pressure, adult onset diabetes, debilitating migraines and a stroke a few years ago that left her with only a small amount of movement in one limb. Anyone that saw her at that time can scarcely believe that she is now able to walk and function independently.


Despite being robbed of many hobbies and talents (for example she is no longer able to paint) by the tremors of Parkinson’s Disease she remains cheerful and involved in life and living. Instead of worrying about all the things she can’t do she focuses on the things she can do.


Three years ago she was able to come to a reunion of most of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in a wheelchair and on oxygen.  I left thinking I would never see my mother alive again. How silly of me! She is now more healthy than she has been for many, many years. She attends the nearby temple 2 times a day, 4 days a week!

 The other day when my son drove up from work they were outside painting the bottom half of the shed.  (Of course he promptly got the ladder and painted the top half - I suspect that was a set up.)

Recently mother and dad had cataracts removed from their eyes. After that, surgery for undiagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome on first one arthritic hand and then the other relieved some severe pain she had been experiencing for many years. Sadly some permanent damage has taken place.

As I visited with mom I enquired about her health and dad’s health.   My father has been mom's caregiver during her most serious health problems.  The light of understanding dawned – my son is with them daily and assists with many home or yard maintenance tasks they are not able to do themselves. He sees the fumbling knobby fingers and shuffling gaits, the filling of weekly pill counters and the carefully planned and eaten meals. His heart yearns to relieve every struggle and he notices acutely his physical health and ability to do service for them the way they have served their family and others for so long.

Dad has his own issues.  He is breathing with more difficulty, becoming unsteady and tires easily. At age 75 he was still working construction. I used to mock my hard-working husband because he would tell me that my father could work circles around any man he had ever seen do construction – and that was a lot of men.  I mocked because I know my father considered himself a slacker compared to his own father. Hmmm – where did that hyperactive gene come from …

Now as my dad nears 85 he worries he can’t keep up with mom.  He has to take some meds for seizure prevention and heart disease.  They interfere with the circulation in his legs and feet and cause a lot of numbness and pain.


She tells me that when they walk together arm in arm they are not sure who is holding up whom. She mentions that her last surgery took almost 8 weeks to heal – I adjust my own expectations for my own much larger and more complicated surgery accordingly – sheesh – why did I think this would only take a few weeks?

Mom talks about dad’s eyes.  One of them is blurry and no longer focusing properly. They have to go see the eye surgeon again. As we chat mom mentions a problem she is having with a fingernail. It is in the awful process of regrowth and shedding the remnants of an infected hangnail. Gout at times causes her big toe to be gargantuan and hot red; this month it is much better.

I ask about her blood sugar.  It is well controlled this week but her false teeth are not fitting properly and without her realizing it they had rubbed some serious sores onto her gums in several places.  Those are healing now since the dentist has made some adjustments. For now she only wears the teeth to eat or while in public.

My son expressed sincere gratitude for a wonderful and healthy body. He expressed even greater gratitude for grandparents that are so healthy spiritually - grandparents that see eternity with perfect vision. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HOW?

My nephew, David Forsyth, posted a link to an article in Harvard Business Review magazine on his Facebook.  I found the article profound. This link is to page 3 - be sure to read page 5, oh and don't miss page 2 or 4 - and it might be better to start on page 1 - shucks - just enjoy it all !!!

The author not only expressed articulately a philosophy of living but also challenged each reader to consider the meaning and value of their life.

Thanks David - it is wonderful to have family that think - AND share!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

20/20

I have wonderful vision. To me that was normal.

I could see clearly, in exquisite detail, even at considerable distances. I observed that I saw highway signs before anyone else seemed aware of their existence much less their content but did not think beyond that to any of its implications. 

Examining intricate stamps or coins has been a pleasure that required no aid.  Bring on fine print – no problem.  I gave no thought to simple tasks of reading, sewing, and being aware of all my surrounding near, far and in-between.

I had no problem seeing animals several miles away on the ranch when I was growing up. While riding, if my father said, “Mr. Soandso’s cow is at such and such a place,” or  “has a calf laying nearby” I could see the brand or markings to observe he was correct and confirm if the calf was moving and what color it was. I could tell if the motion on a far slope was an antelope or deer, and if the bird gliding on the updrafts over the hillsides was an eagle or a hawk and what it had picked up in its talons after a sudden swooping dive. 

I also could thrill to the texture of the tiniest parts of flowers or stones, fur and feathers or even the varied bits of soil that clung to uprooted weeds, crumbled away from rushing waters or flipped aside for scurrying insect legs. My mother noted such things and taught me to look for the barbed structure of a feather, the glinting texture on moth or butterfly wings, the subtle structural parts of leaves or grasses and such things as the translucent wonder and never ending changes reflected by so many different creatures’ eyes.

She taught me how their eyes did not see the way mine did but I took it for granted that most people’s eyes saw pretty much the same. I knew some people needed glasses to help them see better but comprehending the complex dynamics that entailed was significantly beyond my ability and experience.

I now admit I thought a lot of people made a lot of fuss about eye care and glasses and felt a bit blessed that I didn’t need to – and yes I admit to vision snobbery.

Somewhere near age 50 a radical change began.  My arms held objects a bit farther away and I liked to have stronger light and …
and then my arm got too short.

RIDICULOUS! My life became ridiculous – and continues to get worse. Reading became work and somewhat tiresome – but I love to read so I got reading glasses.  Now I have to have the right pair to even see across the room – and a much stronger pair to do handwork.  I just don’t do much of it anymore – and there is little pleasure in needing to set up a production to look at a single stamp or coin – such things now fall into the category of ‘time consuming hobbies’.

All this to say, wow – did you ever consider all the things your body does without you needing to consider it is doing it?  And what about the eyes or ears or limbs that other people have that do not do what yours can do?

If I wore earplugs for a shopping excursion or to watch TV would I appreciate the difficulties my husband has every day or at least become more aware of how irritating a hearing aid can be? What if I had to hear everything in my world through my cell phone's speakers? – YIKES!

If I put on dark smudged glasses and went to the library or watched a movie could I learn greater patience for those that are sight impaired?

Recently I suggested a family home evening lesson to my daughter.  If specific injuries, diseases or handicaps were assigned (or randomly drawn) for each family member and they agreed to the limitations of that assignment for several hours – like through a day, an afternoon, or even just a couple hours of specific activity time – what would result? 

I suggested things like casting an arm or leg, blind folds, or the earplugs as well as invisible things like heart disease, diabetes, or allergies.  Each would receive some instructions about their limitations and during a discussion time all would be free to notice additional difficulties they might think could be faced or ways to overcome the limitations.  The family would then try to help all family members to participate fully in the activities of the day.

Near the end of June as I weeded, walked, and worked in my home and yard I became acutely aware of the movements of my muscles – especially in the leg that would have a surgical procedure on 2nd July. I carefully considered many things I would not be able to do and made sure I had prepared activities that might be pleasant ways to while-a-way a few hours or days. 

Almost a month has passed. I haven’t done anything.  Looking at the light and shadows has been sufficient entertainment some days. Physical Therapy and personal hygiene marathons make watching the back of my eyelids a pleasant option.

Do you know that standing is a pleasure, that sitting on a chair (or any other place)  is a thrill or that being able to ride in a car as it bumps along the street is to be treasured?

How many things can you see 20/20?  How long since you noticed you are able to walk, eat, hear, talk, dress, think, learn or feel? Yes, even feeling is a privilege – it is so much better than being numb.

Each day I notice new things to be grateful for.  I am especially grateful for people – friends, family, medical staff, and even complete strangers that are encouraging or courteously considerate. I am so happy to have educational opportunities, clean water to drink, delicious food to eat, and loved ones to share it all with.

And I know the reality of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing greater than that. There are so many without so much.  I am rich! I am blessed - I am in awe! My vision is so much better than it has ever been. 

How's yours?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NEVER BY MYSELF

I took a shower yesterday. It was the first time this month!

EEEEYYYWWHHHUU!!! I think so too!

I took a shower yesterday, all by myself – ha – David, I think I have made it to age 2.  I am reclaiming responsibility for my body. And BTW I could hear you standing right outside the bathroom door – thank you – I don’t blame you one bit.  It must have been quite a shock at your age to become caregiver to a helpless infant.

Kind nurses and loving family have cleaned and bathed and showered me since 1 July when I arrived at the University of Washington Hospital for surgery.  I arrived knowing I was making choices that were best for my overall long term health and well being.  After seeking and considering much information, many opinions and consulting with many professionals, my family, AND asking God for guidance, that large ‘Atypical Lipoma’ was removed.

And that was all it was – an Atypical Lipoma – a very large painful lipoma but indeed, as expected, the pathology reports came back squeaky clean – no malignant tissue of any kind – and yes, the surgeon was able to remove all of it without damage to, or significant issues for,  other nearby bone and tissues. True, that did require a more extensive incision than expected (approximately 15 inches, instead of 4 or 5, along the inner thigh and crease of the leg  - and in a boomerang shape – 40 stitches in all) but there was unexpected involvement with that other tissue.  I told the surgeon to do whatever necessary to get it DONE.
He did. 

My mind and body, although well prepared and healthy otherwise took an unexpected hit 3 days in a hospital did not repair.  I could talk the talk and even walk for the occupational therapist (who said my occupation is self care) but that was it – going through habituated and expected or required motions.

I, the essence of the being I am, awoke from surgery wondering why I had let anyone do such things to my body.  Anger, frustration, and even hopeless fear swept apart the carefully constructed house of cards premeditated choices had built as involuntary physical mechanics ruled every moment for days.

It was not fun.  I think the anger of helplessness was the worst. It gave increasing fodder to the frustration and especially the doubt, as it fueled fear to implosions of paralyzing despair.

 A separation seemed to force its way between the ownership I (that part of me that is my mind and my spirit) have of my body (and its actions) and surrender its care and well being. Title to the property and all responsibility for anything to do with it was abandoned.

At my lowest moment, as dawn broke the second day revealing steady rain outside the large windows of the spacious private suite seeming to encompass my entire existence,
David said, “LOOK, a rainbow”. 

Outside my window, exactly where I could glance and immediately see it, brilliant colors shimmered through sparkling raindrops in vibrant contrast to leaden gray.  I briefly wondered where the light was from as no apparent sun broke apart masses of clouds there and rain still flicked droplets against the exterior glass – briefly because those involuntary body mechanics still governed every instant for me and my caregivers. The rainbow itself appeared to BE the light. 

The only picture of that very personal and fleeting rainbow is etched not only onto my mind but also into me, the essence of what I am.  I suppose it may also be imprinted thus for David.  I hope it preeminently upstages other unpleasant images.

I began to improve from that moment.  I didn’t even know it yet, but hindsight reveals that moment as the dawning of renewed hope sufficient to begin a process to eventually cast out doubt AND fear.

A similar picture taken a few years ago
- except I was standing in the sunshine when I clicked that shutter

I will keep working on my anger. It is a terrible and confusing companion.  I suppose it too must be cast out. So why do I coddle and cuddle it like a favorite sin? Or is it even anger? Drugs  - even long after they stop being injected or ingested – can change the way our physical mind processes thought.  Regaining the ability to coordinate the physical mind with the nebulous existential being that I am is as difficult as regaining control over other involuntary physical functions.

Meanwhile I will just accept the rainbow – a token and symbol from God to man – to ME - of promise, encouragement and hope.  A token that I am never alone - none of us are - ever. God, our loving father, is always near, ready and willing for us to take his hand and accept his reassurance and loving help. We only have to desire his love and help; accept it - instead of stubbornly refuse

Too often I do that - refuse to accept blessings and let hurt and pride close off promptings or possibilities. It can be so difficult to see beyond my physical experiences and senses. I appreciated Nancy's comment about seeing beyond this existence. 

And I also plan to stay mad enough at everyone and everything to take a shower, among other things – all by myself! At least for now - until I figure out how to do it in a better way. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

LIKE A WEED


Bishop Redford called to talk with me near the end of March 2008. He said Heavenly Father wanted me to serve as Relief Society President in 5th Ward. I was dumbfounded! Why me??

I knew the call came from Heavenly Father because for several months I had many impressions that I would be called – I just completed, absolutely rejected the whole idea.  One weekend during another  ‘discussion’ with God about my ability (or lack there of) I had a specific impression that what young mothers need most to know is that they are loved, and that they are not failures but in fact very successful  and that Heavenly Father loves each one of them very much.  I thought, “Sure I can do that. I can tell them that and try to help them with the incredible burdens they are expected to carry.” Bishop Redford called within the week.

I still wrestled with being expected to represent the beautiful, clever and wise women I knew – so many of them so much younger and working while raising young families.  The first week of April just before my call I went to the temple, simple right? Not for me – or rather it was simple actually – for me these things are always TOO simple. I seem to expect the miraculous or astounding. I get simple. I think most of us do.  Perhaps we pass over simple.

Despite spending a bit of time pondering and considering (both before and after attending) I felt nothing.  My mind did not feel relieved, or enlightened.  I left the temple feeling disappointed but decided to at least walk about seeing the grounds before driving 2 hours home. 
  
I have often experienced such feelings. In the culture of the church many, many stories are published and recounted to illustrate how individuals receive comfort, enlightenment, or confirmation in spiritually uplifting ways – especially when they fast – or pray – or go to the temple.  I hear very few stories that speak of experiences that are so simple or ordinary that they easily pass unnoticed. 

The day was sunny but not too warm.  Bees buzzed, flowering trees trailed blooms near the walks and a light breeze stirred the leaves of shrubs and nodded the bright blooms of spring bulbs. As I walked along immaculate flower beds behind the temple I marveled again and again at how carefully everything was planned and maintained.  ‘Of course,’ I thought, ‘every detail should be practically perfect here.’

I was considering how I could possibly stand up in front of Relief Society or lead out when I saw the dandelion; as yellow as the sun itself; set as if deliberately cultured to showcase its color, right in the center of a large clump of fragrant purple blooms.  

There were many such drifts of purple in varying shades. There was only one dandelion. I knew I was like that dandelion.  If left to bloom it would seed and spread and make many more as beautiful as it was – and it was beautiful.  Despite its reputation as a serious weed I knew that it was in that place, at that time, to show me that even a despised weed can be beautiful and is one of Heavenly Father’s creations. I took a picture with my cell phone.

I have thought much about dandelions since that day. Their roots can go very deep to open and enrich depleted, poor soil.  They are almost impossible to get rid of - we hate them, but we love them too.  They do have a beautiful flower.  Most parents - and certainly every mother - (and many a lover) have tender tales that pivot on the simple ubiquity of dandelions - we have all seen them lining roadsides and covering meadows or lawns. (BTW - I promise I do NOT deliberately spread these invasive weeds. We are quite diligent to help rid our neighborhood of them.)



My husband’s mother had an old vase she used for her dandelion bouquets. I now use it for mine. And I cherish a hope that maybe; just perhaps, I spread a few seeds during the 2 years I served as RS President.  If one person learned or remembers that they are one of God’s creations, and that he loves them just as they are in spite of what anyone else believes or thinks about them my time of service will have been spent well.

 I also cherish the hope that, like dandelions, those seeds of hope and wonder will spread, put down deep roots to enrich even the most careless or barren of soils - and bloom.
by the side of the road there IS NOT just one - there are millions - no kazillions ....

            

Thursday, July 8, 2010

REASSURED !


Sometimes life is scary.

When least expected pain, disease - trauma or drama - or other less significant disturbances to routine rituals (with and without warning) mushroom clouds over all rainbows and blot light to choking darkness.

I have such times. 

I have heard those feelings described as being on the bottom of the pond. I joke that I feel like I am under the scum on the bottom of the pond – sometimes it helps to smile, laugh a little and by acting the part become it.

Sometimes the fear is palpable, literal reality.

THEN, often, I will find a hymn sliding softly into thought and seeping words of comfort and wisdom through consciousness.

Music such as Hymn # 85 How Firm A Foundation.

Tonight verse 3 began and the song continued and inserted a cracked slivered ray into inky despair. 

  3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
      For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
      I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
      Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

  4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
      The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
      For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, …
      And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

I found a hymn book and slowly, read hymn 85 – all of it. Then I had my husband read verse 4 through 7 to me – slowly. I knew God was speaking to me personally – specifically.

Praise to the Great King of Heaven, to God - the loving Father of each one of us.

Truly He knows each of us and notices our every thought. I am left wondering if I bother to even acknowledge His existence sometimes. He loves each of us just as we are with all our fear and faithless foibles. 

I am loved,and watched over even when I neglect to recognize it .

You are loved. ALWAYS!!!!!!!


31243, Hymns, How Firm a Foundation, no. 85

  1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
      Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
      What more can he say than to you he hath said,
      Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
      Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

  2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
      In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
      At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
      As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
      As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

 3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
      For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
      I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
      Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
      Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

 4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
      The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
      For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
      And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
      And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

 5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
      My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
      The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
      Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
      Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 6. E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
      My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
      And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
      Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
      Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

 7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
      I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
     That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
     I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
     I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

        Text: Attr. to Robert Keen, ca. 1787.
         Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.
        Music: Attr. to J. Ellis, ca. 1889
        Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2–5 Helaman 5:12

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th July

When I became an American citizen I was required to take a written test.  25 questions were selected randomly from a list of 100 that were included with various study materials received from INS. I was allowed 3 incorrect answers but I only missed one.

I passed. I now pledge allegiance to the United States of America.

 I pledged to be a good and conscientious citizen.




The United States of America grants native born citizens the right to not care whether they know this vital information.

Do you grant yourself the freedom and privilege to understand civic matters enough to maintain those rights?

 Would you be able to pass?

It's easy - if you study a little bit!

Quiz yourself or your friends and family here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ca-Na-Da

CANADA DAY has arrived!

Somehow the ditty learned as a child for the 100th anniversary of Confederation still echoes in my Canadian born heart and the Maple Leaf still flys in my mind.

Would you all shoot off some fireworks for me?

 And please sing O CANADA a little bit extra loudly
- pretend my voice joins yours - 'Proud and Free'.