Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Crash

Yep, I did it again. In trying to keep the Yuletide burning bright, I totally overdid things. My body let me know what it thought about that tradition yesterday. I could barely move. Most uncool. ;)

Is it part of our human nature to make the holidays as wonderful as possible? I actually feel guilt over Christmas cards that didn't get sent this year. (I made a valiant effort, but did not get a card sent to everyone that I normally do.) And my mother's gift is still sitting on my piano bench---a testimony that the gray cells don't function as well as they used to. (It didn't click that I'd left it there until we were pulling in my mother's driveway down in Utah. I still can't believe I forgot it.)

I made a plethora of food and Christmas candy. Then after consuming my share of the goodies, my stomach rebelled. Toast wasn't even my friend yesterday.

What makes me sad is that I absolutely love the holiday season. I love hearing from friends and loved ones who also make a valiant effort to send out Christmas cards. It's the only time I hear from some of them.

I love Christmas music, I love the lights, and I especially love the reason for the season. As I'm busy bustling around, I figure it's my way of showing love and respect for our Elder Brother by doing as much good for other people as I possibly can. I participated in the Toys for Tots drive our valley sponsored yet again this year. I made well over 25 plates of candy to take around to neighbors and friends. And I did my best to make or purchase thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Even the one still sitting on my piano bench contains items that I know my mother will love . . . eventually.

I guess my question today (and yes, I'm a day late with this post . . . I do apologize) is: have we made the holidays more complicated than they need to be? Is it good to go around in a brain stupor for a couple of days afterward because we pushed ourselves beyond what our bodies (mine in particular) consider cool? Am I the only one who runs myself into the dirt each holiday season? I don't think so. I saw a similar glazed look on my mother's face a couple of days ago. She did most of the holiday baking in her abode this year since my youngest sister is still recovering from a car wreck she endured earlier this month. Then I arrived and took over the the helm . . . after already doing so in our realm. (We didn't head down to my mother's house until the day after Christmas.)

I'm already making myself a list of do's and don'ts for next year, in the hopes that it won't be as crazy as this year was. Any bets I'll ignore it? ;) What think the rest of you about this strange phenomenon? And what can we do to change things around? I seriously doubt our Elder Brother likes it when we make ourselves sick on His behalf. I suspect He likes it better when we strive to be more like Him all year long---stretching things out so it's not all clumped up together at the end of the year.

That's my goal for this coming new year---to slow down, savor the good stuff, and ignore my overactive conscience that constantly harps about the items I did not accomplish. I may not succeed, since being an overachiever seems to run in my bloodlines, but I'm going to give it a shot. (Bad diabetic pun) I would like to live to see other Christmas holidays. Words to live by . . . literally. =D

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wow, where did this month go? ;) I can't believe how fast it passed by. True, we've had a few adventures in our family this month, but still, here we are---it's the week of Christmas.

Today, I plan to make several batches of homemade candy. It's a tradition in our small town to share plates of goodies with our neighbors and friends. It's a fun way to let people know you're thinking about them. And my husband and sons have always enjoyed sampling the delicious treats that arrive at our house each year. (I, of course, try to behave since I have to face the wrath of my diabetic doctor in the near future.)

Since today will be yet another crazy day . . . I decided for today's blog, I will share some fun holiday photos. Some were taken this past week, others are classic shots from the past. Enjoy and all of you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Here's a shot my sons will cherish. A blast from the past--2001. ;) [They're all hams who take after their father . . .]

Here Devin and I are posing (not hamming it up) at a Crane family Christmas party in 2005.

Here was a fun food event at the same party. Wonderful creamy chocolate. Need I say more?!

And a shot of Kennon & I at yet another Christmas event--the traditional Christmas Eve feast.

Our sons love this event as well. Here are Devin and Kris getting into the holiday spirit.

My mother has always loved Christmas. Here she is posing as one of Santa's little helpers.

This is a picture of our sons enjoying the musical Christmas presents they received that year.

And what would Christmas be without snow? We usually have plenty of that. ;)

This was Kristen's first Christmas with our clan. It was a fun year.

The traditional Christmas penguins.

This shot captured the excitement Kennon's mother felt when she learned that her kids and her spouse gave her a trip to Hawaii this year for Christmas.

Grandpa Kennon reading a fun story with our cute granddaughter, Aari. It will be so fun with her at Christmas this year. =)

Remember that Santa is watching closely during this final countdown . . .

May you receive your heart's desire this year . . .

And may we all remember what this season really means.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tender Mercies

The past few days have been rather interesting in our family. For a brief moment, we feared we were losing one of our loved ones. An accident had taken place and the details at first were sketchy. For nearly an hour we only knew that one of my sisters had been in a head-on collision and that she had been taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

This kind of news is not a pleasant way to start one's day. I know I was in a state of shock as I prepared to travel to Utah. Tears made an appearance as I packed and made necessary phone calls. Reason finally pierced the brain fog I was experiencing and I knelt in fervent prayer. Almost immediately my heart filled with a calming peace. Though I still didn't know if my sister would live, I knew I would have heaven's help to survive all that lay ahead.

Before I left Bear Lake Valley, I received word that all would be well. I can't fully put into words the relief that descended at that time. It was mixed with gratitude for the miracle we saw take place that day. This miracle became even more pronounced when we saw the condition of my sister's car. She had been watched over and protected, her life preserved in a manner that left little doubt as to Who had been in charge that day.

Last night I learned that my oldest son's life had been on the line as well late Saturday night. He had originally planned to journey to join up with family members that had gathered at my mother's home near Ogden. After his final class had ended for the day in nearby Logan, Kris called with the news that a raging blizzard had descended. He knew traveling through Sardine Canyon wasn't possible in his small car. So he tried a different route and when he saw cars sliding off the road in every direction, he turned back around and remained in Logan.

I was so relieved when he called and told me that he was safe in Logan, staying with friends for the night. One less worry, or so I thought. Later that same night as I knelt beside the guest bed I'm currently using, I felt impressed to pray for this son. Repeatedly I asked for things to be well with him, not knowing that his life was hanging in the balance.

It wasn't until yesterday that I learned what had taken place. My oldest son is allergic to tree nuts. If he eats anything that contains tree nuts, his throat swells shut, he has a difficult time breathing, and it makes him very ill. For obvious reasons, we are very careful to avoid making or eating foods of this nature when he is around.

He had a couple of scary incidents involving this allergy while serving an LDS mission. Twice he ate foods prepared by members of the Church that contained tree nuts, and with each exposure, the reaction grew more serious. Saturday night, he ate dinner at a restaurant in Logan with one of his friends. After he had consumed a portion of his meal, he began struggling to breathe. A waiter appeared and when questioned, he revealed that Kris' meal had been cooked with almond oil.

Kris experienced the worst allergic reaction of his life Saturday night. He spent over four hours in ER as he was pumped full of steroids to preserve his life. He didn't want me traveling during the blizzard that night, so he didn't contact me about what had taken place until his safe return home yesterday afternoon.

Once again Divine intervention preserved the life of a loved one. I have always been amazed by the tender mercies extended by our Lord. I will be forever grateful for the miraculous events we have witnessed this week alone. And you can be sure that this Christmas, my heart will be continuously filled with gratitude for all that our Elder Brother has done for our family . . . for me. His gifts to our fragile mortal world are beyond price. And while there is no way any of us can return to Him a fraction of what He has freely given, I believe that each time we attempt to act as He would do, His heart is touched with a joy we can't even imagine.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let The Good Times Roll

As with every household this time of year, things have been slightly crazy here. We're madly dashing about, trying to keep up with all of the events\traditions that are a big part of this holiday season. The house is fully decorated with accompanying light strands hanging from various locations outside. This despite below zero temps in our neck of the woods. ;)

In way of good news, I finally finished up a project I've been working on for a couple of weeks for Kennon's side of the family. Whew! I'd reveal what it is, but they have a habit of periodically reading my blog posts, so mum is the word for now. Just know it's really neat and I'm hoping they'll love it.

I finally found the item on the tag I drew from this year's angel tree for our valley. Can I just say it wasn't easy?! ;) It involved traveling to another town to secure the heart wish of a five-year-old boy. To me, this kind of thing makes the holiday season complete.

I made round one of the candy I normally stir up this time of year. And most of it is already gone. Sigh . . . Oh, well---I guess that's a good sign. ;) Today I'll be making up my grandmother's old-fashioned caramel recipe. Yes, it's melt-in-your mouth goodness!!! Something we look forward to each year.

Once all of the candy is made, then it's time to put plates together for neighbors, and the lucky people I visiting teach, and home teach with my husband. (Yes, I'm doing double-duty in that realm these days. Good times.)

Most of the gifts for family and friends have been purchased. They're all still waiting for a wrap session in the near future. I'm anticipating tackling that duty tomorrow. And I still have a couple of packages to get in the mail if they are to arrive before Christmas Day.

Speaking of items that go in the mail, I have a mountain of Christmas cards that need attention. I'm not sure when I'll work that in. If you're reading this and you haven't received a card yet from me, no worries--they'll show up eventually.

Tomorrow is our ward's adult Christmas party. Every year we dress up and gather at the church for a delicious gourmet meal. It usually involves roasted beef or pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies-and-or-salad, and all kinds of fancy desserts. Then as we sit back wondering how we managed to eat so much, we are entertained by a traditional Christmas program. It is filled with music and humor, and ends with something tender about the birth of our Savior.

For this year's event, I've been asked to round up a handful of YW from our ward (since I'm still their fearless leader) to help serve the food. This is proving interesting since our numbers are dwindling in the Young Women realm. We're currently down to five very busy Laurels, four Mia Maids, and one Beehive. Good luck to me I say. =D

Two of those girls are starring in a local high school musical. (My husband and I went to see it the other night and were so impressed. This year's musical production is "The Secret Garden," possibly one of the most difficult musicals performed by our high school to this date and time. And they've done a fabulous job with it.)
At least two of our YW have been sick all week with the gumbooie (My pet name for an undesirable bug) and one has been in Utah, stranded because of the weather. So today, I need to call around and see what I can come up with for serving girls. I wonder if I could borrow some from another ward . . .

I'm still in the planning stages for the traditional Christmas Eve festivities. All of our kids will be here for this event this year and we're really looking forward to all of it. It has been a tradition in my side of the family to create fun finger-foods, fondue, and yummy seafood like scalloped oysters and shrimp prepared in Louisiana shrimp boil for this dinner.

When I was a young girl, I loved Christmas Eve and all of the fun foods my mother created each year. This tradition started in her family when she was a little girl, and it has been a favorite holiday celebration ever since.

Years ago, our bishop at the time, gave each family a small white Christmas stocking. He challenged us to use it each year, giving gifts to the Savior as part of our celebration. Since then, our family has faithfully adhered to this important tradition. We gather around the Christmas tree and take the white stocking down. We empty out the pieces of paper we wrote on the year before and hand them around. Since this is a very private and personal thing, we never divulge to each other what our gift to the Savior has been during the past year. Usually it is something like being more Christ-like, rendering service to those around us, etc.

After we ponder how well we did with our gifts to the Savior, we use new pieces of paper to write down what our gift will be during the coming year. Then this stocking is hung in my china cabinet where we can see it all year---a reminder of our pledge to our Elder Brother.
This is a great way to keep our focus where it needs to be during this holiday season. A quiet reminder of what it's all about.

As we all continue to bustle about, preparing for the days ahead, may we periodically reflect on the reason for the season. Take the time to enjoy loved ones and favorite traditions without getting bogged down by life's crazy demands. Enjoy each day as it comes and do as much good as your heart can hold. That is when Christmas miracles begin to take place, and when the holiday spirit comes to life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Gifts

Hi all. Sorry I've been remiss in posting to my blog this past week. I've been enjoying some time with loved ones, and to me, that's what the holiday season is all about. I'd like to add something further as we now face the onslaught of Christmas time: in my opinion, the best gifts in this life cannot be obtained with money. The best gifts are from the heart.

That said, I'll tell you a little bit about what took place in our family this past Thanksgiving holiday. Two of our sons were here for the occasion, Kris, and Devin, and we had a great time cooking up some family favorites, like huckleberry pie.

We eventually gathered around our dining room table for the traditional feast and after offering humble gratitude for the tremendous blessings in our lives, we savored all of those culinary delights.

We enjoyed our time together as we consumed delicious food. And yes, the turkey worked its yearly magic and most enjoyed an afternoon nap after the kitchen was restored to some semblance of order.

Since everyone's schedules were crazy this year, we celebrated Thanksgiving in spurts. Two of our sons had to work on the dreaded "Black Friday." One had to work a short shift on Thanksgiving afternoon. Our other son, and his wife and tiny daughter, spent Thanksgiving Day with Kristen's family in Wyoming. We were scattered here and there, and yet I sense in some ways, we've never been closer in spirit.

We've seen wonderful blessings take place in all of our lives this past year. Blessings of health, employment, and spiritual growth. For these items, we will be forever grateful. Myself, I will be treasuring precious words that my children presented to me on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the credit for this gift must be given to my husband. Kennon decided to surprise me this year with what he is calling a new tradition. During the days before Thanksgiving arrived, he had contacted all of our sons, asking them to write a paragraph about their mother. He encouraged them to include reasons why they were thankful for me. On Thanksgiving Day, I was presented with an envelope that contained three separate paragraphs that will be added to a special collection I've been keeping through the years. Inside a large envelope that resides in the safety of my cedar chest, I have kept items that mean the world to me. Among other things it contains a handwritten letter from my father that I received a week before I married Kennon; my patriarchal blessing; the testimonies our sons recorded one night for Family Home Evening; and now these wonderful notes that I was given last week. All are treasures that I will read and reread in the years to come.

I will freely admit that my sons and husband made me cry on Thanksgiving Day. ;) They were happy tears. As I read through the notes my sons had written, my heart turned to mush---I believe that was their intent. ;) Can I just say that notes like these are priceless gifts? Keep that in mind as the mad rush continues toward Christmas Day. As I stated earlier, the best gifts are indeed from the heart.

Our Thanksgiving holiday stretched over the weekend. Derek, Kristen, and Aari swung by on Saturday night. They had opted to take the loooonnnggg way home so they could spend some time with us before they headed to their abode on Sunday afternoon.

It was great to see them. We visited, enjoyed more good food, and played hilarious games, like Apples to Apples. Throughout it all, Aari tended to steal the show. She is so fun right now. She's a little over 14 months old and she embraces life with gusto. She runs everywhere and she is learning to talk, which is often a hoot. We keep a stash of toys in a large plastic tub just for her enjoyment and she has learned that it contains fun things like this singing frog puppet.

Aari already loves books and she enjoyed looking at a new one with her mother, while seated in a chair her father had loved as a youngster.

The next day, we all got ready for church, another way to express our appreciation for all that we've been given. Here's a shot of Aari running up and down the hall with Daddy, to get the wiggles out her system. She actually behaved quite well that morning. Sitting quietly for a lengthy bit of time is challenging for little ones. (Sometimes it's challenging for older ones, too. ;)

All in all, this past week has been filled with good food, laughter, and love. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season and we're looking forward to the exciting days ahead. May the coming days be charged with those things that mean the most, and may we all keep in mind what the true Christmas Spirit is all about.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I love this time of year. I've always loved the fall colors, and the crisp biting air as the seasons change. And one of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I enjoy getting together with loved ones, sharing fun memories, playing games, hearing family stories, and savoring delicious food. This particular holiday took on an even deeper meaning for me when we discovered that some of our ancestors (like John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley) were among those who took part in the first Thanksgiving dinner held so many years ago.

This past month, I've had 3 separate opportunities to snap pictures of wild turkeys. I know turkey wasn't a featured menu item for my ancestors during their Thanksgiving feast, but this member of the poultry family is an important item for most who celebrate this fun holiday. As such, I'll share a couple of those pictures and a silly poem I wrote about turkeys last year. And if you feel so inclined, feel free to share some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories.

Turkeys on the Run

Turkeys on the run
Aren't having any fun
Dodging Pilgrim wannabes
They hide behind the trees.

Turkeys on parade
Think they have it made
When hunting season ends
They try to be your friends

Turkeys with attitude
Border on being rude
They strut across the road
Rebellion is their code.

Turkeys in the rain
Serve to entertain
When droplets hit their head
They look up---drown---fall dead.

Turkeys aren't too smart
But they try to do their part
Making Thanksgiving day complete---
Their revenge---we overeat.

Cheri J. Crane

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Angel on Main Street.

Today I'm sharing a treat with all of you---I'm posting a review of a book that will touch your heart and mind in a myriad of positive ways. "An Angel on Main Street," written by Kathi Oram Peterson is, in my humble opinion, one of the best Christmas stories written in recent times. Filled with warmth and an ample supply of the Christmas Spirit, this little book (it's only about 100 pages long) is a great way to start the holiday season. Not only will it serve as a reminder of what's really important this time of year, but it will fill your heart with enough warm fuzzies to survive the cold weeks ahead.

Set in an small Idaho town in the early 1950's, the story begins with Micah Connors trudging home from school on a cold December day. He had stayed after school to earn some much-needed money for his family. Poverty-stricken, the threesome survive living day to day as best they can. The mother, a young widow, works as a waitress at a local restaurant. Micah tries to work at odd jobs as he can, and he babysits his younger sister, Annie, while his mother works at night.

Annie is very ill, suffering from rheumatic fever. As her illness progresses, it is apparent that without divine intervention, her time on this earth will be short. Already grieving for his father, who died during the Korean War, Micah is terrified that he will lose his sister as well.

As if all of that wasn't enough to handle, Micah is caught in suspicious circumstances with his new-found friends. Sick at heart, Micah knows this is the last thing his mother needs. He makes a deal with the sheriff; the sheriff will remain quiet about Micah's supposed crime, if Micah will agree to shovel the snow outside of a local store for the aging shopkeeper early each morning.

While all of this is taking place, a large rustic nativity scene appears like magic in the middle of town. Overnight, a wooden stable is placed where all can see. Each night, new pieces are arranged around the stable. Annie is certain that it is Christmas magic and she is convinced that when the Baby Jesus arrives as the final piece, she will be healed. Desperate to make this happen, Micah vows to find the Baby Jesus for his little sister. First, he must discover who is responsible for creating the magical nativity set. Annie believes that angels are responsible for its creation. Skeptical, Micah learns that there are many ways to define the word, angels.

I cannot say enough good about this book. It is a skillfully woven story that is certain to become a Christmas Classic. Below is a book trailer about this Christmas story.

Kathi Oram Peterson, the author of this wonderful book, is sponsoring a contest. She says: "I'm holding a contest called An Angel in Your Life Contest. Here's the lowdown on it. The contest runs from now until December 15th. Anyone can enter by simply emailing me at kathiorampeterso@yahoo.com and writing about an experience you have had with someone who became an angel in your life. The winner will be announced on my blog (www.kathiswritingnook.com). A gift certificate from either Seagull Book or Deseret Book will be given to the winner and an "Angel" in his/her life. This contest celebrates the selfless, kind acts performed daily, many times unnoticed. If you are like me, many people have helped you through times of trouble. Let's face it, life is tough and the small acts of kindness shown to us by others needs to be remembered and celebrated especially during the holidays. Christmas brings out the best in people and I wanted to give others the opportunity to thank those who have touched their lives in a profound way. Hopefully this contest will remind us of the angels in our lives."

And here is a link where you can purchase Kathi's new book: http://deseretbook.com/item/5030490/An_Angel_on_Main_Street

Friday, November 13, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

So I was watching the news last night and the weather person warned that a huge storm is coming our way tomorrow. Rapture fills my bosom. Actually, aches and pains fill my body. I have been blessed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis and usually, the day before the barometric pressure changes is quite entertaining. ;) Sometime I hobble about wishing I lived somewhere like San Diego where the weather stays pretty much the same year round.

I have found that the best thing to do when this kind of adventure is on the horizon, is to embrace it. I continue forward, and rarely curl up in a corner to hide for the day. Continuing to move is often the best thing I can do. I was once told by a rheumatologist that if I hide in a corner on the days that I hurt, I will become a cripple. This is something I hope to avoid. So I push past the pain and move around and things usually loosen up. If not, I fall on my face and entertain the people around me, but laughter is good for the soul, so it's all good. =D

I suspect there's an analogy here for life. (Quit rolling your eyes. It's what I do.) We all have bad times. There are moments when we just want to hide in the corner and not move forward. We fear the pain that movement will bring, not realizing that this tendency will cripple us. Moving forward will help us heal, pushing us past obstacles that can stymie our lives.

It won't be easy--trust me. There are days when I just want to hold very still, wrapped in a warm fleece blanket. Ironically, the longer I remain inert, the worse it gets. It's usually the pain that inspires me to hop out of bed and work out the kinks. Before long, the intensity fades and I'm able to tackle my important list of things to do. ;)

One of the most difficult items to remember during adventures of this nature, is to trust in God. It's tempting to complain in this manner: "If God truly loved me, He wouldn't make me endure this kind of pain!" It's a challenge to realize that we're often permitted to endure the Refiner's Fire because it will shape us into a better person. We learn important lessons like empathy for others, patience, and endurance. In short, we become better people when we persevere through trials.

The other thing to remember, our Father in heaven doesn't cause the pain we often endure. He provides the balm to survive the trials that come our way compliments of others and ourselves. We tend to forget that we were actually eager to experience mortal mode. I'm sure it was once explained to us that we would endure physical and emotional pain while dwelling on this earth. Not fully understanding what that meant, we chose to come anyway. We desired the growth that would come about because of our earthly adventures.

So when storms surface in our lives, it behooves us to ponder the bigger picture. Keep in mind an eternal perspective. Someday this journey will end and we'll find ourselves contemplating all that we learned. It's my hope that I won't witness scenes from my mortal life and cringe, ashamed of my behavior during a brief interlude of pain.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Feathers In The Wind

Years ago, when my mother was a little girl, she was asked to give a talk in church. She wasn't sure what to talk about and my grandfather, who was a wise, fun-loving man with a great sense of humor, came up with an idea. He instructed her to gather all the feathers she could find. This wasn't too hard, since they lived on a small ranch at the time. He handed her an old pillowcase, and told her to stuff it full of the feathers. Then he told her what to say, and how to handle the prop he had helped her create.

The day of the talk arrived. My mother stood behind the pulpit in the chapel and talked about the evils of gossip. She explained that when we spread rumors, or create stories about people, it was like casting feathers into the wind. She then opened the pillowcase full of feathers she had brought with her, and emptied it into the room, much to my grandmother's dismay. It was a very effective, though messy object lesson. My mother stated clearly that day that once you spread a story, whether it's true or not, it will float around, much like the feathers were doing, and it was impossible to retrieve those stories, or undo the damage wreaked by gossip.

People in that ward talked about my mother's mini-sermon for weeks. An important point had been made. My grandmother, meanwhile, saw to it that every feather was gathered in that small chapel. My mother and grandfather spent well over an hour picking up each one. ;)

I'm sure we've all been victims of gossip. I'll never forget the day I was approached by a woman in our ward. I was attending a stake Relief Society event---I had been asked to take part on the program that day. When it was over, this woman came up to me and said, "What are you doing here? You were life-flighted out this morning!"

Obviously this woman was wrong, since I was standing right there before her. I had endured an entertaining adventure the night before this woman saw me, which had led to all of the rumors floating around our valley. I had suffered a toxic reaction to a high-powered medication that my doctors were hoping would kick the lupus into remission, a medical condition that had been quite active for several weeks. This medicine had all but shut down my kidneys and that night, I endured my one and only ambulance ride to the local hospital where I spent a long time in ER, and an even longer time in ICU.

When it was determined that my heart was not involved, and I was no longer in mortal danger, I was eventually released from the hospital a few hours later. I was taken off the medication that had caused all of the trouble, and though I didn't feel the greatest for a few days after that, I was hardly floating around in a Life-Flight helicopter.

It seems to be human nature to jump to conclusions---to think that because we've seen or heard something, it is gospel truth. Most often, we know nothing about the situation and we do more harm than good by sharing our take on things.

We've been counseled by our Savior to avoid judging others. It is simply not our place to point fingers. As He said long ago, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." As I recall, everyone who had gathered there to stone a woman they had figured deserved that harsh treatment, quietly dropped their stones and walked away.

In today's crazy world, we need to do likewise. We live in a turbulent time. We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down, and we really need to cease casting feathers into the wind. This kind of negative behavior hurts so many lives. We rarely know the whole story--we simply know our take on whatever it is. But when we run around sharing that small portion, untold damage is rendered. It's much like the story of the six blind men who examined an elephant, trying to understand what it was:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

John Godfrey Saxe

I suggest that in the future, we try to be kind to one another. Instead of spreading feathers in the wind, spread understanding, kindness, and warming smiles. Emulate our Elder Brother's example in lifting the weary hands that hang down. Be among the bridge builders, not the demolition teams.

Monday, November 2, 2009


We've experienced quite a week in our ward. One of our stalwarts, a man everyone loved, passed away quietly. He had been battling Lou Gehrig's disease for quite some time. Recently, we thought he was improving and our hopes were raised that all would be well. It is---just not in the manner we had envisioned.

With heavy hearts, we girded up for the funeral. Since I'm still the fearless leader for the YW in our ward, I had another concern: one of our Mia Maids is the youngest daughter of the valiant man who slipped from our lives this past week. Three other YW in our ward are nieces. This is a difficult time for all four young ladies. Somehow we have to help them ease through the heartache of losing a loved one.

In the middle of all of this, another ward stalwart, our previous bishop, suffered a massive heart attack. He was life-flighted to Utah for emergency by-pass surgery. His wife is our current Relief Society president. She was hit from all sides. She had been out of town to be with a daughter who had given birth to her first child when she received the news about her husband's heart condition. As she made preparations to leave and be with her husband, this woman's father passed away with a heart attack.

Wow! Is it pouring trials our direction, or what? It seemed as if it was storming like crazy in all of our lives. In a state of shock, we pulled together to survive. Knowing this funeral would be huge, all of our ward organizations rallied to help the remaining member of the R.S. presidency. (The other counselor in this presidency is a sister to the man who passed away.)

To make matters even more entertaining, for weeks, our activities committee had been pulling together a huge Halloween party. It was to take place on October 31st. As it turned out, this would be the day of the funeral. Several of us wondered if it would be better to cancel the festivities in light of what had happened. Our wise bishop decided to continue with the plans that had been laid. He was definitely inspired.

Some of us who had been asked to help with the Halloween Carnival\Ward Trunk & Treat, had to hurry home to change clothes after the funeral so we could return to the church in time to set up the Halloween games. As we hurriedly redecorated the gym, we wondered if anyone would come to this event.

Surprisingly, most of our ward returned to celebrate what was left of this particular holiday. A goodly share of these people dressed in costume, including the children of the man whose life had been celebrated during the earlier funeral. This Halloween party proved to be a much needed stress release, and a chance to focus on something fun. It was the exact sunburst that was needed in our lives that night.

Life is like that. Storms move in and we often think it is the end of the world. Our faith is shaken and we wonder how we're going to survive. Then the Son bursts through the clouds and we realize that we're not as alone as we were thinking.

Our Savior is always there for us, no matter what trial we're enduring. He has experienced more than any of us can possibly comprehend, and His Atonement can heal our hearts if we will but turn to Him. When hearts are shattered, it is difficult to focus on the light He can bring into our lives. Our challenge is to look beyond the clouds, toward the Son-bursts of hope that will help us survive the difficult days ahead.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hope Floats

It does, you know. No matter how hard it is held under, hope will always float to the top. I suspect the reason for that is, hope is lighter than the opposite which is gloomy despair, or painful discouragement.

Not long ago I attended an auxiliary training for our stake. There I experienced both ends of the spectrum. We were introduced to next year's YW theme, taken from Joshua 1:9. This new favorite scripture of mine says the following:

"Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest."

To me, this scripture speaks of peace of heart and mind. It says in essence, that no matter what the days ahead may bring, we are not alone and things will be okay. True, we have to live up to our part of the deal--obeying the commandments is a solid guarantee that we will have the help of heaven to survive our challenges. It doesn't mean that there won't be any trials, for that is how we learn, grow, and prove ourselves while in mortal mode. What it does mean is that we shouldn't go around wringing our hands in fear. The Lord is with us, no matter where we are, or what we're facing.

So as I sat basking in the glowing warmth of the inspired scripture above, someone tried to pop my proverbial balloon. That night someone stressed that we need to be honest with our YW and tell them that the days ahead will be horrible. "These girls need to know what they will be facing, so they can be strong enough to do so. They need to know that things will keep getting worse and worse and that they need to be prepared."

Wow. Where did that come from? I'll admit, we live during a difficult time. Has it ever been otherwise? Has there ever been a time when there weren't challenges? Has the adversary ever crawled into a hole and left people alone for any amount of extended time? Nope.

I'm sure during both World Wars and the Great Depression, people weren't always dancing in the street for joy. Nor were they when the world's population waded through the dreary times known as the Dark Ages. So on and so forth.

In today's world, we enjoy more blessings than in any previous age. The number of temples now in operation should be reason enough to keep us rejoicing for a very long time. Despite the news stories that fill TV screens and computer screens alike, good things are happening in the world.

While I do plan to help our YW prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, I refuse to convince them that their future will "inhale" and it will be filled with terrible things. I've survived enough of those kind of trials to know that despite the very darkest day ever, there will be other days when the sun will shine brightly and hearts will fill with peace. It is my own opinion that we need to instill calming faith, not despairing fear inside the hearts of our vulnerable youth. Yes, there are a lot of trials currently taking place in the world, but dwelling on the negative things isn't what I think our Father in heaven would like for us to do.

During these turbulent latter days, we need to be a positive light in an ever-darkening world. Our balloons of hope need to be visible, dancing in the sunlight of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Favorite Fall Photos

People who know me well, know that I'm rarely without one of my cameras. It's a hobby, what can I say. ;) That said, periodically I manage to capture interesting moments in time. I figured for today's blog, I would share some of my favorite fall photos, taken about a week ago. There is one exception; the final picture is one my daughter-in-law snapped of my cute little granddaughter. But it's a cute fall picture and it shows how much she loved playing in the leaves, so I have to share. Enjoy and check back next week for more fun blog posts.

This is a shot I took up Emmigration Canyon.

This is a colorful hillside I snapped up Emmigration Canyon.

Here my spouse posing up nearby Maple Canyon, not far from our home.

Kennon had me pose in that same canyon. Maple Canyon is also where the first picture at the top of this blog was taken . . . in case anyone was wondering.

This is a picture I snapped up above Bennington in the nearby "Orchard," as we call it. Bennington is the small town where we reside.

This is a shot I captured when we were in the Crow Creek area on our way to Wyoming a few days ago. The sun was just starting to set and it made a gorgeous picture.

And as promised, here is the picture of my cute little granddaughter, playing in the leaves near her home. Aari loves being outside and she thoroughly enjoyed romping in the leaves that day.

If you get a chance this weekend, weather permitting, go out and enjoy what is left of the fall season. I absolutely love this time of year and I wish it would last longer than it usually does.

Monday, October 19, 2009


To begin today's post, I'm sorry for not posting anything last week. I caught a vicious bug going around (shudder, shudder, cringe some more) and was pretty well wiped out for nearly 5 days. Good times--NOT! ;)

Enough said, and onto today's post, which is a review of a wonderful new book by Jennie Hansen. In my opinion, this new suspense novel will affect numerous lives in a good and positive way and I am honored to review it in a public fashion. This is a book that I highly recommend---if I posted stars as a rating system, it would rate 5 out of 5.

Jennie is a talented writer and author of several popular LDS books. She also writes informative and fair book reviews for Meridian Magazine, an online LDS resource. Jennie's latest release is a book entitled: "Shudder." In the pages of this book, Jennie has courageously tackled a difficult subject matter--spousal abuse. Borrowing from a paragraph in the acknowledgments of this significant book:

"Shudder is a book I knew I would write someday. During the years I worked as a reporter, served in Relief Society, and even while being employed as a librarian, I heard stories from lonely, isolated women. I witnessed the bruises, the broken bones, and the haunting fear in their eyes. I became the confidant and only friend of one such woman. I was a visiting teacher to another . . . I have heard General Authorities and prophets denounce those men who would inflict pain on their spouse and children, declaring them unworthy to hold the priesthood. The truth is that no woman deserves to be abused by the man to whom she has given her trust fully
. . ."

Jennie has done a great job of weaving a storyline that illustrates how devastating abuse can be, no matter the form. Verbal, physical and sexual abuse are wrong and lives are destroyed when this type of behavior takes place.

The two main characters of Shudder are close friends: Clare and Darcy. They grew up together, best friends who have always been there for each other. Surprisingly, their home lives were as different as day and night. Darcy grew up in a typical LDS home, one filled with loving siblings and parents who treated each other with respect. Darcy was raised with love and support and she matured into a loving, strong young woman with high ideals. Saddened by the tragic death of an older sister, Darcy rises above the challenges in her life to reach for important goals.

Clare, on the other hand, was raised by an ailing mother who eventually passed away, leaving the young woman on her own as an orphan. Though Darcy's family did their best to include her in important family gatherings, Clare struggles with an inherent emptiness. The need to be loved seems to be filled by a young man named Blaine. Clare falls in love with the attractive young man from a prominent family, unwilling to listen to Darcy's unease about the kind of person she suspects Blaine to be. His belittling manner and domineering ego clash with everything Darcy knows is good in a relationship.

Though Blaine is a returned missionary, his rude and selfish behavior indicate he is an aggressive predator. Closing her eyes to the danger, Clare ignores the warning signs that she is in an abusive relationship, and she acquiesces to Blaine's outrageous demands, certain that he is her knight in shining armor.

The final straw for Darcy is Blaine's insistence that he move in as a roommate to her and Clare. When Darcy refuses to cooperate, Blaine moves in behind her back, prompting Darcy to move out. From that point on, Darcy and Clare head in opposite directions. Clare accepts Blaine's proposal, and though her wedding is not what she had always dreamed it would be, she convinces herself that marriage to Blaine will fulfill her desire for a loving family. All too soon she realizes that Blaine is not the man she believes him to be and she turns to the one person who has always been there for her in the past, Darcy.

While all of this is taking place in Clare's life, Darcy continues with her education, completing her student teaching at a local high school. She meets and begins dating a wonderful young man named David. Unlike Clare's experience, Darcy establishes a healthy relationship with David, who embodies what a priesthood holder should be. Lending encouraging support, David helps Darcy survive a dangerous situation where both of their lives are in mortal peril.

Full of surprising plot twists, "Shudder" will keep you on the edge of your seat as you read on to see what happens next. This is a book every woman should read. Not only will it open the eyes of women who haven't experienced an abusive relationship, but it may give those who have the courage to reach for a different life.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Moxie In The Mix

I laugh every time I see the picture above. This is a shot of my little granddaughter, something I snapped in August during a family reunion. It was a blistering hot day, and before it was over, we were all wishing we were dressed like Aari. ;) There she was, balancing herself with one hand, lifting up something that to her was quite heavy. She was doing her best to imitate her daddy who was playing a similar game nearby.

Aari possesses moxie and this fills my heart with joy. She recently learned to walk and she now toddles everywhere, eager to explore life. This past weekend, I followed behind as she climbed something that to her, appeared to be a giant mountain. It was a long set of stairs in my sister-in-law's home, but to Aari, it was a steep challenge that beckoned and we both cheered when she reached the top.

Aari had a rough start in life. For months we agonized over a kidney problem that became apparent compliments of a series of ultrasounds. Before this tiny girl was born, it appeared that she would endure some health issues. At the very least, we were told that surgery would be required to fix the kidneys in the months following her birth. If things looked grim enough, transplants were in order down the road.

No one likes to be told that a tiny baby will be facing procedures of this magnitude. We fasted. We prayed. We kept her name and the names of her parents on temple prayer rosters. The biggie was maintaining our faith that all would be well. Then about a month before she made her arrival into this mortal realm, we witnessed a miracle---one kidney decreased in size, exhibiting signs that it was working properly as the swelling disappeared.

We cried with relief, expressing heartfelt gratitude to the One we knew had made this possible. But our celebration was dampened somewhat by the solemn face of a doctor who pointed out that the other kidney was still in trouble. He explained there wasn't time for the second kidney to improve on its own. It would need surgery after her birth.

It's a difficult thing to walk by faith. Doubting fear can rob us of peace of heart and mind, and in the weeks before Aari's birth, we agonized over what this precious child might have to endure. Still we prayed, clinging to a thin thread of hope that all would be well.

I was fortunate enough to be there at the hospital the night that Aari was born. She arrived into this world early on the morning of September 30th, 2008. And yes, we all cried as we took turns holding this beautiful baby girl who meant so much to us.

That first day, we also held our breath, hoping her kidneys would work. For hours we waited and when the waterworks in question didn't seem to be functioning, we prayed. Aari was taken back for another ultrasound to see what the kidneys and bladder now looked like.

We'd shed tears earlier, so there was no pride at stake when the doctor returned with Aari and very good news; her small bladder was filled to capacity. Both kidneys looked normal and appeared to be working just fine on their own. We cheered. We cried. And we prayed again, thanking God for another miracle.

Miracles do still happen. I've witnessed enough of those in my life to know that we seldom walk through life alone. We are watched over and helped far more than we ever fully realize.

During a challenging time in my life several years ago, I was blessed with a message dream. They don't happen very often, most dreams are silly nonsense, but once in a great while, when the need is great, an important message can surface in this format. Years ago I was given the following dream:

I was trying to walk up a golden staircase. Every step was agony and this effort required strength beyond my own to accomplish. Then my eyes were opened and I was shown that a dark force was doing their best to stifle me. Darkened hands reached for my feet, determined to block my way. Angels hovered nearby, allowing me to move forward on my own if I chose to take those precious steps. That part was up to me. The angels could keep the dark force at bay, as long as I kept moving forward, up the staircase toward an important goal.

I don't think it was a coincidence that the next morning, after waking from this extremely vivid dream, I found myself in the local drugstore where I saw a painting of a similar scene. A golden staircase rose toward heaven, and a solitary figure was making the climb. At the top of this picture were the following words: "Help me believe in what I could be, and all that I am. Show me the Stairway I have to climb, Lord, for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time."

Stunned, I purchased this picture with my prescriptions that day. I found a frame and it has hung in a place of honor in my computer room ever since. It's a reminder that even though we all have to make that climb, we never make it alone. Inner determination, something I call moxie, gives us the courage to keep taking those steps, even when it seems that all is lost.

Aari is a living example of what can happen when we choose to continue forward. It is my prayer that she'll continue walking forward up this fragile stairway we call life. It's something we all must do, taking it one determined step at a time, ignoring the doubting fear and darkened force that tries to stifle us. Reaching the top will take everything we can muster, but it is possible when we walk by faith, step by step, until our goals are realized.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder . . .

Okay, I'm through stealing lines from "Princess Bride." For now. ;) I thought for today's blog post, I would share some pictures of a recent wedding in our family, something that took place on Saturday, October 3rd.

Here the groom (Jordan) is waiting anxiously for his bride.

Here we are, waiting for the festivities to take place: Kris, Devin, Derek, Kristen, Moi holding Aari, & Kennon. We were all very grateful that the weather cooperated that day.

Finally the wedding procession marched in. Here's the mother of the bride, Jackie, escorted by Cori's boyfriend, Abby, who accidentally got cut from the picture. (I do apologize about that.)

And here are Jordan's parents.

Cori was actually escorted in by someone else, but I owed Abby one for the earlier photo error. Aren't they a cute couple? ;)

Jonathan & Erica also made a cute couple. (Note how their outfits blend. It was a remarkable coincidence. =D)

And here the father of the bride, Curt, is escorting the beautiful bride, Cassi. Holding her train are the cute sons of Kalli & John.

Last but not least were the reluctant tikes who filled the roles of ring-bearer & flower girl. Janet the wedding planner did a great job of keeping everyone on track.

Grandparents, Bob & Verdene, looked spiff for the occasion.

Numerous relatives came for this event. Pictured here is Kenney, Trista, & Sheldon.

Presenting Mr. & Mrs. VanOrden.

Shortly after the wedding, we met up at the local church for the traditional wedding dinner.

The dinner was delicious and the company was fantastic. A good time was had by all. I understand Aunt Scoob was impressed with the silverware. ;) {Private joke}

Even the youngest member of the clan enjoyed himself. Li'l "Tater" loved being spoiled by his grandma Arvilla.

Before long it was time for pictures and a plethora of cameras made an appearance. Here Cassi is posing with her bridesmaids.

The entire Stucki Clan posed graciously for several different shots.

The reception was a great success and the line was steady throughout the evening. Then it was time to cut the wedding cake.

The traditional tossing of the bridal bouquet was next. It was so amazing that Cori was the one to catch it. ;)

It was day filled with romance, which may have inspired good brother Jeffy to whisper sweet nothings into his wife's ear. Dannyel was a good sport about that. ;)

To close, I'll end with another favorite quote from the movie, "Princess Bride":

"And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva . . ."