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 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 ( 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:

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.