Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My husband did some male bonding recently and went hiking the other day with some friends. They hiked to the top of Mount Olympus. He packed water and food and bug spray and extra socks and bandages and moleskin and granola bars and power bars and jerky and sunscreen and probably more stuff I didn't see.

When he got home he could barely walk. He could barely talk. I asked him how it was. He said, "Steep." For every mile it's 1,000 incline. Steep would be the correct word.

The rest of the day he did some moaning and groaning and a lot of sitting and laying. That was Saturday. On Tuesday he had Ibuprofen for breakfast. By Wednesday he could finally go up and down our stairs without crying out in pain.

Rest assured, I didn't let all of this go unnoticed. I had plenty of fun at his expense. His birthday is coming up. I asked him if he wanted hiking equipment. His expression was priceless. We won't be hitting Cabelas to go shopping.

On the flip side, I am going to St. George in a few weeks with my oldest daughter. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks because we are going to get ZUMBA certified. This is a new fitness craze that is basically choreographed dancing to music, but is heavy into Latin dancing, as well as various other dance styles. I absolutely love it and recommend it. But I digress . . . While we are in St. George we are hooking up with my three sisters and two of my nieces to do some female bonding. We plan on having a "Girls Night." It will consists of food, shopping, fun, staying up late, talking, laughing, chocolate, more laughing and more fun. The next day we probably won't be able to walk because we will be so tired because we stayed up too late and ate way too much junk.

I'm so glad I'm a girl.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's OK to Be a Big Baby Now and Then

I don't have any fishing stories to tell and my sister and I sadly haven't spoken for several months (something that needs to wear itself out) so instead I think I'd like to say a few words about being a baby. I don't claim to have any more experience being a baby than anyone else and I've spent many fewer hours, days, and months--years even--caring for babies than my blog-sisters and probably our blog readers as well. But for the past two weeks I've been carefully watching five little baby kittens at very close range and so I hope you'll indulge me as I ruminate aloud about babies.

All of my own cats are "fixed" but since I do as much animal rescue as my personal finances allow I usually end up caring for a litter every year or so. A few weeks ago a very pregnant mama cat was brought to me, and unfortunately that was right about the time the spay clinic I use had to cut back hours because of a change in staff. I tried to take Mama Kitty in the next day, a Friday, but the clinic was closed. In the past the clinic was open five days a week but now has had to cut its hours. Mama Kitty, instead of cooperatively waiting until Monday, had her babies on Saturday. (And for those who cringe at "aborting" kittens—there are millions of animals abandoned and euthanized every year. Always much better to avoid unwanted pregnancies than terminate life but also better to prevent additional unwanted, uncared for, and more unfixed animals.)

End of lecture. Well, of that particular lecture. This next part isn't really a lecture. I hope.

In my last Primary teacher calling, I often found myself planning my lessons as I worked in the garden. So many lessons about life from gardening! This past few weeks I found lessons about life from the baby kittens. Here are a few that come to mind (with apologies for the lack of photos--I'm just not experienced enough at this kind of thing):

1. Sometimes kittens get eye infections, possibly because their mother doesn't keep their eyes clean. So I've been carefully washing their eyes with warm water and a cotton pad (per instructions from a vet last time I cared for kittens--hopefully nothing's changed since then). As you might imagine, the kittens don't like it very well. (Boy they have big mouths when they cry!) Their eyes are just starting to open so they probably don't realize there's much of a difference between having their eyes closed and having them gummed shut, but a blind cat in nature is a very vulnerable cat, so what is causing them discomfort now is really very important for their survival down the road. Any similarities to us? You bet. In fact, a very old lesson about life. We don't always like what's good for us.

2. Baby growth is pretty amazing. These kittens have doubled in size from their birth two weeks ago. Even so, the largest kitten is twice the size of the smallest, the runty guy. But interestingly, it's the runty guy who was the first to climb out of the cardboard box. He's just so determined. The word "scrapper" comes to mind with him. He's little but he's tough. He may not have the advantage of size but he's got determination, and that’s what gets stuff done as much as size and strength any day.

3. As I look at the kittens now, Mama Kitty has fed them and has wandered off for a nap (definitely a lesson there), and the kittens are all piled on each other sleeping. Boy, the sight of a sleeping infant is amazing. I don't have the experience watching kids sleep but I can image there are times (late nights watching TV or sleepovers) when the kids snuggle together, or with parents as well. It's a tender scene. It just reminds me how much we need each other--for warmth and comfort, companionship. When the kittens are nursing, they can get pretty competitive and they're pretty serious about this feeding business--using their little skinny paws to pull their littermates away from the food source. But when their physical needs are met, then it's a different story.

I'm going to enjoy watching these little critters for the next several weeks but will happily "share the wealth" come Christmas when they'll be ready for new homes. So if you hear of anyone looking for a cute little kitten about then, you all know where to find us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sister Sister

Jeri's post on the upcoming women's conference made me think about sisters: my own two sisters, my great sisters-in-law, sisters in the gospel, and my daughter sister. Women I love dearly. I don't know what I'd do without these wondrous women who help me through this often crazy life.

My sisters Vicki and Teri are good women; they're hard working and caring. Growing up together in Lake Tahoe, California, we shared happy and sad times. We had times we bonded and times...well, that we didn't. As adults we have come to realize how much we mean to each other, and I know that my sisters would do anything for me. Besides which, they make me laugh.

My sister-in-laws came to me as a gift when I married. And they truly are gifts. They're gentle, talented, and giving. I enjoy my time with them, especially when they tell me stories and secrets about my husband when he was young. My sister-in-law, Nola, made me a breathtaking hand-stitched quilt for my birthday one year. It is a prized heirloom which I will bequeath to my daughter.

My sister friends in the gospel surround me with wings of comfort when I hurt, arms of caring when I'm down, and faces of joy when life hands me good things.

And finally to my daughter sister. I've kept this sister relationship for last, because, even though all the other sisterhoods are precious to me, this one is the most tender. I have learned so much about goodness, compassion, patience, and charity from this bright gem of a woman. Together we have struggled through hard things and learned much. We have laughed and cried, torn and mended, fallen and stood. She is my hero. How wondrous to go through eternity with her hand in mine.

Thank you to all the women who touch my life for good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sisters in Zion

With Woman’s Conference around the corner, I find myself reflecting on some of the amazing women who have had an influence on me. I can’t help but feel extremely blessed to have had some pretty outstanding women in my life. These women are those whom I have such a great love, admiration, and respect for. I am sure we all have women who have influenced us for good.

I was reading a past Woman’s Conference talk given by Sister Julie Beck from 2007 where she spoke of standing strong and being immovable. President Hinckley had said
(I’ll quote here): “I am convinced there is no other organization anywhere to match the Relief Society of this Church. It has a membership of more than five million women across the earth. If they will be united and speak with one voice, their strength will be incalculable. . . . It is so tremendously important that the women of the Church stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord.”

Sister Beck went on to say that in order to stay strong and immovable under the Lord’s plan we can be so in our faith, our families, and in relief.

The things she said with all we can be and do for our families was beautiful.

Thinking that part of her talk over, I went downstairs to switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I had just washed my uniform with my son’s pants and needed to get them ready for work tomorrow morning.

I opened the washer and got a strong whiff of bubble gum. Though I don’t recall buying that flavor of detergent, I proceeded to pull my pants from the washer. That’s when it hit me. The pink gooey mess stringing all over my pants for work was the stuff that my son forgot to empty from his pockets just before I put them in the washer. Everything that Sister Beck said about the good I can be to my family momentarily vanished from my mind… once I got my wits about me again, I decided I am a work in progress.

As for relief: It never ceases to amaze me of the countless times I am having a rough time, or may need some uplift, that I will say a little prayer. Without fail, an email or phone call, or a visit will come through from out of the blue, and immediately I know without a doubt my prayers are answered in the form of a sister or friend.

It’s like the hymn says:

“The errand of angels are given to women and this is a gift that as sister’s we claim. To do whatsoever is gentle and human, to cheer and to bless in humanity’s name”
I have been on the receiving end of those angel’s errands more times than I can possibly count.

Women love to help others. It’s a gift we have. May we go on forever giving of ourselves. I know how much my life has been truly blessed through the service and sacrifices of others. I pray that I can somehow express my gratitude by trying to find ways to pay those blessings forward.

And then there is faith: Sister Beck said we should find ways to excel in living and sharing our testimonies. She went on to say, “ These are simple, indispensable practices that almost seem mundane when we talk about them. However, they are marks of discipleship…” I love that. It really got me thinking.

I didn’t mean to turn this post into a Sunday School lesson. Only to say that I know how much room I have for improvement. I’m a constant work in progress. Today proved that when I sat reading a wonderful talk and two seconds later found bubble gum smeared from here to breakfast-- but at Conference time I always feel so encouraged and enlightened. I feel excited to set goals and try harder.

I am so very grateful for the women/sisters in my life that I have to look up to. In them I know I can find friendship, strength, and comfort. What a blessing they are to me!

Celebrating Sisterhood Signings

It's not my turn to post, but I want to let everyone know who will be signing where this Saturday for Celebrating Sisterhood. This is a fun event. Come visit us!

American Fork Seagull Matthew Brown - Pillar of Light 10-12 Stephanie Black – Methods of Madness 12:00-2:00 Michele Paige Holmes – All the Stars in Heaven & Counting Stars 12:00-2:00

Centerville Seagull Gales Sears – Christmas for a Dollar 10:00-12:00 Michele Bell – A Modest Proposal 12:00-2:00

Provo Eastbay Seagull Clair Poulson – Dead Wrong – 10:00-12:00 Donald Smurthwaite – Boxmaker’s Son – 12:00-2:00 Idaho Falls Seagull Gerald Hansen – Sacred Walls – 10:00-1:00

West Jordan Seagull Julie Wright – Eyes Like Mine – 10:00-12:00 Val Chadwick Bagley – Book of Mormon Bingo & Book of Mormon Art Kit – 12:30-2:00 Gary & Joy Lundberg – Love that Lasts – 12:30-2:00

Redwood Seagull Val Chadwick Bagley – Book of Mormon Bingo & Book of Mormon Art Kit – 10:00-12:00 Jennie Hansen – High Country & Wild Card (possibly Shudder if it comes in soon enough) – 10:00-12:00 Mary Jane Woodger – For Single Saints – 12:00-2:00 Hank Smith – Real Life – 12:00-2:00

Spanish Fork Seagull Deanna Buxton – Worldwide Ward Christmas Cookbook & Worldwide Ward Cookbook – 10:00-12:00 Clair Poulson – Dead Wrong – 12:30-2:00

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My English Trifle, and a New York problem

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I've just finished reading English Trifle by Josi S. Kilpack. It's a great book; the heroine is delightfully nutty, her daughter amusingly long suffering, the action starts right from the beginning, and, as though that weren't enough, there are recipes in it! The chicken tikka massala recipe is almost identical to mine, plus scones, trifle and even crumpets! (Although, as one character so rightly stated, no one makes crumpets any more. I buy them - 50p (about 75 cents) for six.)

A couple of weeks ago I was toying with the idea of producing a traditional British cookbook adapted for the American market. No longer. Sister Kilpack has not only beaten me to it, but thrown in a gripping murder mystery to boot. Darn it.

I do have to take issue with her trifle recipe, however - so here's mine:
  • Put a layer of trifle sponges or sponge fingers, or even sponge cake, in the bottom of a glass casserole dish. Add the preferred fruit - strawberries are great, pineapple pieces, whatever you like best.

  • Make up a pint of strawberry jelly (jello?) according to the instructions on the packet, and pour it over the sponge and fruit. Put it in the fridge to set. It seeps into the sponge - delicious!

  • Once set, pour lots of cold thick custard over the top. I love Ambrosia Devon Custard. Josi Kilpack suggests that vanilla pudding is an acceptable substitute. Never having tasted vanilla pudding, I can't comment. I did look online for a recipe for custard, but they all started by asking for "100 grams of custard powder" and I'll bet you don't have that in America either.

  • Add a layer of thick whipped cream. My husband tells me American cream comes with added sugar. Our cream here doesn't have sugar in it, it's just pure juice of cow.

  • Finally, crumble a Cadbury's flake bar over the top or, if you don't have those either, grate some chocolate.

Apart from the trifle recipe, it was difficult reading a book set here in England without picking out the bits which seemed to be rather un-English. The pantry contained acorn squash and rutabagas, neither of which I have ever heard of, but perhaps things are different in Devonshire, or "Devon" as it's been called here for the last 200 years. (It drives me absolutely potty that lists the county of my ancestors as "Norfolkshire" when it has always been called "Norfolk.") Everyone in the book seemed to like to go on holiday or visit relatives for Guy Fawkes Day, whereas all our family has ever done is let off a few fireworks in the garden. But then, like 99.9% of the rest of the UK, we're neither nobility nor servants. Maybe those in higher circles are bigger on tradition.

Several times, however, I thought Sister Kilpack hadn't done her homework, and proved to be wrong. The hero had his mother's number listed in his phone as "Mom's cell" when any English person would call it "Mum's mobile". But then I remembered that the hero's mother is American and he has lived there for several years. The Butler (I hope I'm not ruining the story for anyone here) was obliged to the Earl for paying for his wife's much needed medical treatment. Aha, thought I. Medical treatment is free here! But then it proved to be treatment for alcohol addiction, which isn't readily available on the NHS. So my apologies to Sister Kilpack, and well done, you did indeed do plenty of thorough research, and you've written a cracking book.

This brings me to another problem. The book I am currently writing includes an American character - a New York cop, no less - and I have a single chapter set in New York. I run a very real risk of having him say "a couple of things" instead of "a couple things", and "she's in hospital" instead of "she's in the hospital." Well, maybe not those examples exactly, but there a myriad of little differences which could make any American reader stumble and destroy the authenticity of the character I worked so hard to create. Are there any New York cops out there who would proofread it for me?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Upon Reflection

The picture above is one I snapped last week while on a fishing\camping adventure with my husband. We were both trying to catch catfish, which is easily one of my favorites. This tasty fish can be fixed in a variety of ways, making it an extremely versatile main course.

We had been informed that the catfish were biting at Alexander Reservoir, or should I say, what is left of Alexander Reservoir, near Soda Springs, Idaho. This usually large body of water has been drained for dam repair work. (No pun intended.) The only water left in the vicinity is the river that flows into this reservoir.

So we set up camp near the river, and began trying to catch the elusive catfish. We caught more than our share of small yellow perch, and Kennon caught a large freshwater sucker. Then it happened, I caught my first catfish. It put up a heck of a fight, but when I finally reeled it in, it was quite small, all things considered. It was only about 8-9 inches long, so we set it free, after I made Kennon take my picture with it to prove to our offspring that their mother had indeed caught the fish of choice.

I caught two more just like it. (And no, it wasn't the same fish. I suspected it was, but Kennon pointed out the second one was larger, and the 3rd one was smaller.) Sensing I was destined to catch one we could keep, I walked down the bank and cast out where I believed I would catch a big catfish. I had just settled down beside my pole, when it nearly flew into the river. I had to pounce on it to keep it from disappearing. As it was, I lost my bobber.

Kennon saw that I had a fight on my hands, and he hurried down to help. He offered all sorts of advice while my pole nearly bent in two. Now wouldn't you assume if someone was dressed like this, they would know what they were talking about?

Au contraire. I heeded every bit of advice, closing my eyes at one point during this adventure, certain my "antique" pole was doomed. (Important note: I've had this fishing pole since I was about 10 years old. It's my lucky pole, the one I used when my father and maternal grandfather taught me how to fish years ago. Never mind the fact that a few years ago we spotted one just like it in an antique store for $30.00. My siblings and children still make fun of me as a result, but I like my fishing pole. It possesses great sentimental value.)

I obediently kept the line taunt. Kennon adjusted the drag. (I have no idea what this means, but evidently it's important.) Still my pole continued to bend in half. Fearing for its life, I was about ready to cut my losses to save it when things went very still. The bad news was, the line was stuck. Kennon figured it was one of two things:

1) The silly catfish decided to sit on the bottom of the river to outwait me.
2) The silly catfish ran under the lava rocks that lined the river bank and I now had a nasty snag.

It turned out to be door number 2. Long story short, I lost my tackle, but saved my pole. (stupid catfish!) As I sat sulking, I saw that the sunset was beautiful. So I pulled my trusty camera out of its case and began snapping pictures. As I did so, an interesting pelican landed in the river nearby and swam quite close. I was able to get the picture you see above as a result. It's possibly one of the prettiest pictures I've taken all summer, and a shot I would've missed had I been busy catching catfish. ;)

Moral of the story: life very rarely turns out the way we envision. Sometimes the best laid plans go up in smoke, or in this case, under lava rock. Instead of pouting, it behooves us to look around and see what other opportunities lie in our midst. The beauty of what we may see will surprise us, filling us with hope, giving us a reason to smile.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Ever since Anne Bradshaw's book Famous Family Nights came out, I've been thinking about family home evenings and I've come to the conclusion that holding family home evenings is a lot like daily scripture reading. Most of us start out really well and think we've got the ideal system down, then life gets in the way, and we have to go to Plan B.
For a while I read scriptures every night, then I began falling asleep as soon as I opened them. I'd unconsciously trained myself to consider them part of my go-to-sleep routine. There was a time when I took my scriptures with me for long soaks in the jetted tub, but when life gets hectic which is most of the time, I stick to showers. Slow dial up computers were a great solution for many years; I kept my scriptures beside my computer and read while my computer loaded. But now I have fast DSL and it doesn't leave time for finishing even a verse. On to the next brilliant plan for consistent scripture study!
When our children were small---toddlers to elementary school age---family home evenings weren't that hard. I always planned a nice dinner of the children's favorites, set the table with nice dishes, and ate by candlelight. This was followed by a song, an opening prayer, a short lesson, and a game. I usually concocted a special dessert to top off the evening like Baked Alaska, chocolate coconut crepes, or a trip to a nearby ice cream parlor. As the children got a little older many of our family nights became outings to the circus, an ice show, or the library. Then the children became teenagers---two worked Monday evenings, sometimes I worked Monday evenings. We moved family night to Sunday afternoon. College, a mission, job demands, even church callings, all kept us shuffling days and times. Eventually Family Home Evenings became more like a monthly event than a weekly one and now included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I found other families struggled as we did as their children grew older to hold regular family nights. One family I know watches Monday Night Football together and they call that family night. I know another family that has followed the music, prayer, lesson, game, dessert format consistently through the years and still follows it as a senior couple. Another family performs a service project for someone else every Saturday and considers that their family home evening.
As I read through Famous Family Nights which is a compilation of short essays by more than a hundred LDs authors, artists, and musicians on the subject of family nights, I found that most of the contributors have put sincere effort into holding family nights, but like my own family have adapted the format and the time to accommodate their individual family needs through the years. Some of the essays are funny, some are touching, and some share some great ideas for things families can do together to build family unity, share testimonies, and have fun together. The important thing, like with daily scripture study, is to keep trying, keep adapting, and somehow find time. Just as a testimony and love of the scriptures is essential to our spiritual well-being, spending time together as families, growing together in love and companionship, is necessary to building strong families.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You're Stronger Than You Think

Almost a day doesn't go by that I don't find out news that a family member or friend is going through a horrible challenge in their life. Honestly, it gets a little scary to answer the phone or read an email, because I'm afraid of hearing even more bad news.

Sure, I know, this is part of life, this is why we're here, but it sure feel like the trials and challenges of life are increasing at light speed. I don't even have enough fingers and toes to count all the people I know who are going through horrible life challenges that range anywhere from medical issues to relationship problems and every aspect of life.

I find that as I go through the day my mind is filled with concern and heartache for the many loved ones who are experience pain and anguish. And I wonder, how can I help? What can I do?

I pray a lot. I know the temple prayer roll telephone number by heart.

We've been told that things would get rough during the last days. They are. Yet in the midst of it all, we have been given promises and blessing to help us through our deepest, darkest moments. And when we get through these trials and challenges, we look back and wonder, how did I get through that?

I love the scripture in Ether 12:27 (I know this by heart too because it's my favorite scripture) And if men come unto me I will show them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them;

Sometimes when we are going through a challenge we fall into the trap of discouragement, self-pity, and depression. We spend so much time trying to determine what we did wrong in the past to deserve the unpleasant happenings of the moment that we fail to resolve the challenges of the present. Og Mandino wrote in his book The Greatest Miracle in the World, “If we lock ourselves in a prison of failure and self-pity, we are the only jailers … we have the only key to our freedom.” (New York: Frederick Fell Publishers, 1975, p. 61.)

We can let ourselves out of such a prison by turning to the Lord for strength. With His help we can use our trials as stepping-stones. The keys are in our hands.

Our challenge is to endure. There will always be testings and trials along life’s paths. But heartaches and tragedies don't need to defeat us if we remember God’s promise.

I am not a runner. I hate running. But I admire greatly the people who do. Especially Olympic athletes. One gold-medal winner said his success was achieved by being able to endure the pain of commitment and self-discipline. Aren't we all part of a race, to obtain eternal life?

I found a wonderful talk by Marvin J. Ashton about this. In it he said:

The Apostle Paul likened life to a great race when he declared: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24.) And before the words of Paul fell upon the ears of his listeners, the counsel of the Preacher, the son of David, cautioned: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (See Eccl. 9:11; Matt. 10:22; Mark 13:13.) What does it take to endure in the race for eternal life, to become a champion? To become a winner in the race for eternal life requires effort—constant work, striving, and enduring well with God’s help. But the key is that we must take it just one step at a time. The ingredient that is essential in learning to endure is consistent effort. In our race for eternal life, pain and obstacles will confront all of us. We may experience heartaches, sorrow, death, sins, weakness, disasters, physical illness, pain, mental anguish, unjust criticism, loneliness, or rejection. How we handle these challenges determines whether they become stumbling stones or building blocks. To the valiant these challenges make progress and development possible. Sometimes as children we were told everything would be all right. But life is not like that. No matter who you are, you will have problems. Tragedy and frustration are the unexpected intruders on life’s plans. Someone has said, “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” Marvin J. Ashton, “‘If Thou Endure It Well’,” Ensign, Nov 1984, 20

Even when life kicks you when you are already down, you have been blessed with a divine strength to help you get through even your most difficult, unbearable moments. Just like Elder Ashton said, constant work, striving and enduring to the end, are the keys to getting us through these tough moments. We can do it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

Now this post will seem like a "duh!" post, but I think it bears observation anyway. Last week my family and I went to Florida to visit my husband's parents and the beach and Disney World.

It was, in a nutshell, the best family vacation we have ever had.

We left behind stresses of daily life, (other than the fact that the kids had to take their homework), and enjoyed living entirely in the moment. The beach was wonderful, even when it rained, my father and mother-in-law were delightful and the kids loved seeing them, and 2 of 3 Disney days were absolute perfection. (The 1 day that wasn't so much perfection was because it was like wandering through the seven levels of hell in terms of heat and humidity).

I wondered why we don't have such heavenly bliss all the time at home--what was it about the circumstances that made it so wonderful? Of course it was the whole leaving-stress-at-home thing and not having to work. I'm sure that certainly helped. But as I thought about it, I realized that this alone isn't enough. If I were there by myself, I would not have enjoyed it to even a fraction of the degree that I experienced with the people I love. In fact, when Mark was in Daytona with a coworker last year, I thought he would be over the moon. He had a good time with his friend, but every time he called me, his conversation ran along the lines of, "I wish you were here!" And I would say, "But isn't it wonderful?" And he would say, "Well, yes, but...I wish you guys were here!"

I realized that even if I were on an eternal vacation at the most wonderful places my little heart can imagine, it wouldn't be heaven without my family. So all told, I'd rather be with them during the daily grind than on vacation without them.

But perhaps in the next life, we can spend a fair amount of time sitting by the shore and taking nice, deep breaths, body surfing and playing in the sand. Together. :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy in Strange Places

I’ve been listening to a book on tape this weekend called “The Oldest Rookie.” If that sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s the book the Walt Disney movie was based on. The subtitle of the original book is “Big League Dreams from a Small-Town Guy.” The subtitle of the book after the movie came out is “The Incredible True Story of a Man Who Never Gave Up On His Dream.” (And for anyone who’s interested in that kind of stuff, there’s a lesson there about titles.)

The movie focuses on a relatively short period of time, from the late 1990s when Jim Morris was challenged by the team he coached to try out for a major league team. The movie covered the next few years but this stage of Jim Morris’ life really only lasted a few years. By May 2000, his professional career was once again ended due to arm and shoulder injuries. Is he devastated to lose his dream once again? Not a bit. It was meant to be, said Jim Morris. Just part of God’s plan.

I like the book because it allows Jim to discuss his faith in God and his belief that God had a plan for him. "I consider myself very lucky,” Jim said. “God has a funny way of bringing some things around and knocking you in the head with the ultimate destination. Something I should have achieved quite easily took me a long time to get around to. It came in His time, not mine."

Sports were everything to Jim Morris growing up, but when sports were taken from him because of his injuries, he found a whole new world he’d never paid attention to. He found out he liked school and he was good at it. He had a knack for teaching and helping kids to understand and become interested in science.

A big part of Jim’s story is his relationship with his wife and their challenges. Part of those challenges came from his inability to communicate, but over time he learned how, painfully, and though a host of experiences, from his wife’s difficult pregnancies, to his own health problems, problems that actually helped him and his wife to grow closer although it seemed to add to the stress at the time.

I loved watching Jim get corralled into using his other talents, talents he didn’t know he had, as he began working with, first, people who were developmentally challenged and then youth considered at-risk. And then of course, there were the kids he coached. But baseball became something he did; it was a part of his life, not the whole of it.

And that’s the point Jim makes about the movie. “It's not a baseball movie. It's a family-oriented movie. It entails relationships with high school kids and adults, adults and adults, adults with children. Baseball just happened to be the dream that I pursued."

I also loved watching the difference between his description of 23-year-old Jimmy Morris playing professional baseball and 35-year-old Jim Morris trying out and playing baseball. It reminded me of something Laurel Ulrich Thatcher said. (She’s one of the few, if only, Mormon women to win the Pulitzer Price for her book about a midwife in New England in the late 1700s.) She went back to school when she was older and although she was intimidated at first, felt out of place, felt too old, she said, in a paraphrase, there’s a big difference between a 21-year-old with a humanities degree and a 41-year-old with a humanities degree. That should comfort anyone who’s thinking about going back to school but feels “too old.”

To Jim, his story is about second chances. "I don't know if I want anybody to walk away from the movie thinking about me specifically," he said. "I do want them to walk away asking themselves, 'Well, if I get a second opportunity at something, I should walk through that door.'"

Although I believe in second changes and am grateful for them, to me Jim’s book is about a lot more. It’s about the learning that takes place along the way. It’s about growing up and getting smarter and wiser. And it’s about finding ourselves, happy, in places we didn’t know we were supposed to be.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Better Part

I'm on the committee for our stake women's conference in November and my assignment is to present two chapters of Emily Freeman's 21 Days Closer to Christ. Each chapter should take no more than five minutes. Now, if you've read the book, you'll agree that to do it justice, I'd need at least 15 minutes on each one. There's just SO much good stuff to digest!

I'm thinking about a dialogue between Mary and Martha that may go something like this:

Mary: "Martha, you have such a wonderful talent for entertaining guests. When they come to our home, they know they are going to be served a wonderful meal, and that you will meet their every need. It's obvious to everyone that you love doing it, and you are so diligent in each aspect of serving that way. I don't have that talent. I feel so helpless in the kitchen, really out of my element. I guess I'll always just be a teacher and nothing more."

Martha: "But Mary, you love teaching, and that is your talent. You're the best teacher I've ever heard, next to the Master Himself. There are times I wish I could just sit at His feet and listen to His wonderful stories, but I must admit, I feel more comfortable in the kitchen. I wouldn't know what to say if He asked me a question."

Mary put her arms around her sister and gave her a hug. "I'll try to come and help you more often so you won't have so much to do by yourself, but forgive me if I get lost in the Master's discourses. I just need to learn so much so I can teach it to others who can't be here. I guess we each have our talents - things that we love to do and that we do best. Serving is your better part. Teaching is mine."

Then I thought I'd have them turn to the audience and ask: (Quoting from the book) "how do we determine what qualities make us unique? How do we discover which gifts and abilities we have been blessed with that are individual to us?"

There are five questions we can ask ourselves that will help us find answer to these questions:

1. What motivates you spiritually?
2. What is one gospel subject that you enjoy studying?
3. What meaningful activities bring you the most joy?
4. Which of those activities help you feel closer to Christ?
5. What qualities do you have that can help others feel closer to Christ?

We don't all have the same gifts or talents, and at different times in our lives, our gifts might be different to benefit us or those we serve. Learning to utilize those gifts to the best of our ability is what constitutes giving the better part.

When we know who we are and have identified the qualities and gifts we have been given, the service we offer will be our very best.

President Hinckley said "...Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure. Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do. Then leave the matter in the hands of the Lord. You will discover that you have accomplished something beyond price....You may never know how much good you accomplish. Someone's life will be blessed by your effort." ("To the Women of the Church," Ensign, Nove 2003, 113-15.)

Mmmm. Needs some work. I'm not an analytical person. My daughter asked me the other day which life stage I enjoyed most with my children - when they were babies? When they were all in school? When they were mostly grown or when they were adults? I had to tell her I had never really thought about it. I just lived through and enjoyed each stage. There were blessings and advantages to each stage.

That's how I am with my spiritual development. I don't stop to analyze where I am or how I'm doing. I just try to do what I'm supposed to be doing (Prayers, scripture study, journal, visiting teaching and home teaching, serving, fulfilling my callings. etc.)

It's difficult for me to answer questions like those because they seem very abstract to me. What motivates me spiritually? Needing more information on a gospel subject? Needing blessings? Being grateful for blessings received?

And that last one is a hard one! What qualities do you have that can help others feel closer to Christ? Wow. None that come to mind right off!!!

Guess I need to do a lot of soul searching on this chapter. If you have any suggestions, please send them on! I can use all the help I can get!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Once in awhile you have the opportunity to do something utterly amazing. Such was the case for me this last weekend. I went to my 40 year class reunion in Hawaii. Yep. I graduated from McKinley High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. I know, amazingly lucky, huh? Well, here's another amazing thing...I hadn't attended any of my other reunions, so I hadn't seen any of my classmates for 40 years. How's that for a leap in time?

We had a few over a hundred in attendance. My hubby George was impressed since his graduating class in Manti, Utah was a total of 96 people. I reminded him that my graduating class was 600, so the % of attendees was actually a bit low, but, as they say, it's not the quantity but the quality that counts, right?

Well, the overall quality of my graduating class is excellent. They are really good people, and I had so much fun catching up with their lives. The years melted away and we were laughing again at all the crazy times we shared. I also went to dinner with friends from the McKinley Theater Group and our drama teacher, Mr. Nakamoto. This gentle, good man was truly one of the mentors of my life. He made me believe in myself and my abilities. Mahalo, Mr. Nak!

I now have a cluster of pals in beautiful Hawaii with whom to correspond. Hopefully I can entice them over to Utah where George and I will show them the breathtaking beauty of our state. I know they'd love Bryce Canyon and Zions, as well as the craggy cliffs and alpine meadows of Alta.

To the gracious fates who allowed me the privilege of living for a time in Hawaii and meeting the wonderful friends, and inspirational teachers of McKinley, I say MAHALO.

(Here are a few more photos of the amazing time. I hope you enjoy them)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bridging The Gap

I had a great opportunity this past weekend to observe something that put a big smile on my face.

As many of you know, my youngest son struggles with a lifelong seizure disorder. He’s had three brain surgeries, takes medications, yet his seizures continue to be difficult to control. This of course affects his education. Though he tries to do his best, learning from verbal instruction is something that doesn’t come easy for him. Yet, show him how to do something and he catches on so much better. It’s the language that complicates matters. Many people without seizure disorders may find they are visual learners as well.

My father on the other hand, had a professional career in the education system. He started out as a teacher and within a few short years became a principal until he finally retired many years later. He is book smart and has an incredible knack for being able to reason and explain why things are the way they are. He can make sense of the 50 page instruction manuals that many get boggled down by. (Me? I can’t even pronounce half the words—very frustrating!) However, my father was in the education system back in the days before Game Boy’s, Wii’s, or even before computers were so common. And of course who ever heard of text messaging and tweeting?

I was excited to pack my family up for a weekend trip to visit my dad. While there, on several occasions, I caught my dad with his arm around my son, helping him to read a book, giving him clues how to sound out vowels, to read the words, and praising my son for his efforts.

It also did my heart good for me to watch my son teach his grandpa a thing or two about Wii games, Game Boys, and computers. The two of them sat and played games. I watched and listened as Bryan showed his Grandpa how this remote works and how to play that game. He even showed his Grandpa a thing or two on the computer. I kept hearing my dad say how “Smart that boy is,” and “Why am I so old that I have such a hard time learning these things?”

From my observations, the thought occurred to me that my dad has a wealth of knowledge from all his wonderful life experiences (as well as being book smart) that my son can learn from his Grandpa. At the same time, I loved the thought that my son has something that he too can share. That he was able to teach and help his Grandpa with a few things that he was struggling with. I have to admit the scenes before me brought a few tears to my eyes.

It’s a wonderful reminder to me, and one that I am thankful for, that we are all sent here with different talents, different struggles, coming from different walks of life, yet we can all learn and grow and gain so much from each other.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ceridwen Rose Jones Buttimore

by Anna Jones Buttimore

My youngest started school yesterday. (That's her in the picture, all ready to set off.) It's all a bit poignant in an end-of-an-era kind of way, so I wanted to be completely self indulgent and use this blog as a retrospective on one wonderful little girl. Sorry. Normal service will doubtless be restored tomorrow by one of my esteemed fellows who knows how to write meaningful stuff rather than just waxing lyrical on their own offspring.

Ceri didn't have the most auspicious start in life. My husband and I separated after years of turbulent marriage in December 2003. My widowed father-in-law was in poor health, and when it became clear that he wasn't coming out of hospital anytime soon, my husband - his only child - moved into his house. We'd stuck together, really, just to avoid upsetting his Dad, but we figured what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

In mid-January Idwal died. I made the funeral arrangements, and also popped in to see a solicitor to get the long-anticipated divorce underway. Two days after the funeral it dawned on me that something was awry. A quick trip to the chemist, and I was in shock. Pregnant. The divorce became final in August and I moved back to England, and to a new ward, as a pregnant, single, Mormon mother. Not usually the best combination of adjectives.

We knew the baby was another girl, so Gwenllian, Angharad and I took votes on names. The two shortlisted names were Rhiannon (the name of the heroine of a Welsh folk tale) and Ceridwen (which means "White verse" and is the name of the Welsh muse/goddess of poetry). I liked Rhiannon, actually, but got outvoted and, of course, now she could never be anything but Ceri. It's also much easier for all her English relatives, friends and teachers to say.

Quick digression here to tell you that Angharad's name means "Much loved". We call her Hari for short, and she's 8 years old now. Gwenllian (Gwen) just turned 14. She was named after the last Welsh Princess of Wales, and her name means "White dishcloth". Long story.

Anyway, Ceri is now 4 and has been such a wonderful addition to our family that I feel guilty about how long it took me to get over the shock of her existence. (She was six months old before I could stop frowning at her and asking "What are you doing here? I didn't order you.") She is loving, and funny, and beautifully behaved. When she's angry she just frowns and sulks - no screaming fits or tantrums. She occasionally issues terrifying threats - "If you don't let me have another biscuit I'll... I'll... go to bed!" She can make a game out of anything. One day I caught her playing with a statue of the Saviour and the framed photo of my (lovely new) husband. They were having a conversation. "Hello Jesus, I'm Daddy." "Hello Daddy, I'm Jesus." "Shall we go out to play?"

I think I now understand just why Ceri had to defy the odds and join our family, and Roderic, my new(ish) husband is part of that. Probably due to my advanced old age (I'm 41 this month) it looks as though we won't be having any children of our own, but Roderic has known Ceri since she was 3 months old, when I brought her with me to a Single Adult Fireside. He picked me up for a date when I was starting her on solid food for the first time, and she was a bridesmaid at our wedding. In fact I had to hold her (she was 18 months old and a bit perturbed by all the pomp and circumstance) as I said my vows.

She calls Roderic "Daddy", and as far as he is concerned, he is her Daddy. Her sisters utterly dote on her, and, as you may be able to tell, I'm really rather fond of her too. She's walking, chattering proof that those unexpected little shocks which throw out all your plans can turn out to be the greatest blessings of all.
So here she is (front) coming out of school at the end of her first day. She loved it. Which is good, because she has at least twelve more years of schooling to go...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Last winter seemed to go on forever and I grew impatient for spring. Spring turned into an onslaught of rain and when summer finally arrived, it was an endless blast of heat. Dare I hope fall will live up to my expectations? I love early fall with its array of colors, crisp air, and bounteous harvest of garden produce.
You'll notice I didn't say I love fall in general; late fall is dirty, brown, wet, and cold. While early fall is a new beginning of school, a time to spruce up the house, gorge on ripe, juicy peaches, and take delight in nature's new wardrobe of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows, late fall will always be associated in my mind with picking potatoes, cold hands and feet, and before-dawn to after-dark days of hard physical labor.

Early fall is a golden time. It's when grain fields ripen, bringing a promise of bread through the winter. It's a time when flower beds are putting on their last brilliant flame of colorful blossoms. It's a time of corn-on-the cob and new potatoes. It's memories, too, of my mother bottling peaches and pears. I never did quite get the knack for canning fruit, though my sisters do it and a couple of my daughters are good at it.

Along with the good memories is another memory that comes to mind every year at this time. I was just beginning the fourth grade when for some reason I woke up one morning and decided not to go to school that day. I loved school and I really wasn't sick, but I couldn't quite wake up that morning. In the rush to get six of my siblings off to school, Mama gave up on me and told me to sleep in her bed where I could watch my baby brother who was asleep in his crib so she could can peaches without him underfoot. The baby was asleep and I was hazily daydreaming when there was a loud explosion in the next room. I jumped off of the bed and ran to see what had happened. My mother and the whole kitchen was covered in scalded peaches. Peaches were even stuck on the ceiling! Mama's pressure cooker had blown up. She was crying and clearly in pain. Her dress was sticking to her skin so I helped her peel it off and used the damp cloth she'd been using on the bottles to wipe off her face and glasses. At that time popular advice was to put butter on burns, but I knew there wasn't enough butter in the house to cover her burns so I used milk, then baby oil. (Now I know plain old cool water would have been best). For the rest of the morning, though she was in great pain, she scrubbed the kitchen and I entertained the baby. Unbelievably the burns healed without leaving scars, but I was left feeling there was a reason I didn't go to school that day.

Fall brings memories of shopping for new school clothes. During my early school years this meant poring over Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs. Later it was shopping with my younger sister and stopping for hamburgers on the way back home. Shopping for my children's school clothes was both fun and concern over the expense. I guess it's habit, but I still find myself wanting a new outfit this time of year and eyeing children's clothes in the flyers that arrive in the mail and with the newspaper.

The seasons change and this one seems to be beginning with smoky air from an over abundance of forest and range fires. Summer heat hasn't yet abated and we need rain. Still there's something in the air, a kind of clarity or hint of cooler days, rich harvests, and ringing school bells. Writers take note; store memories, jot down the subtle hints of the coming season. The best writing, just as the best memories, include an awareness of changing seasons. Add vitality to your writing by letting your readers know the seasons and feel the subtle shifts from one season to the next.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Choosing Happiness - Being a Light to Others

The lighting apparatus in lighthouses is measured in candle power. The strongest lighthouse is located off the coast of Florida and is 5,500,000 candle power. That's a lot of candles!

Each one of us have a light inside of us. Sometimes that light burns bright and sometimes our light is dim. When it's bright we are able to shine for others and help those who might be struggling because their light is dim.

I have a dear friend who has worked in the retail industry for most of her adult life, basically since she graduated from high school back in 1976. I met her in 1987. She told me how much she wanted to get out of retail and get into a medical career. I told her to go to college, even if she could only take one class a semester and it took her ten years to finish. Or, she could go to a trade school and learn how to be a medical assistant. That was twenty-two years ago. She's still in retail and she's still complaining about it.

Each and every day we make hundreds of choices, beginning with the minute the alarm goes off. Should I snooze or should I get up? What should I wear today? What should I eat today? The list goes on. One of those choices is whether or not we are going to react in a positive way or a negative way to things that happen to us and the people we interact with during the day. Are you going to let that jerk who cut you off on the freeway ruin your day? Are you going to be offended by the church member who tells you they didn't agree with the comment you made in Relief Society? Are you going to be cranky all day because someone at work ate your Hot Pocket?

Innately I'm a pretty upbeat and positive person, but there are some days that it's all I can do to not bite someone's head off because I'm tired, or something hasn't gone right, or . . . a thousand other reasons. But we do have a choice in how we react. Problems happen, things don't always go right. We don't have to let it ruin our day, and we certainly don't have to take it out on everyone around us.

Soon after I was married I was talking to our Bishop's wife. She was an incredible woman and I admired her greatly. She told me something very wise. You can't depend on someone else to make you happy. The comment rang true in my heart. This truth is powerful, especially in marriage. We cannot expect our spouses to make us happy. That is not their job.

You can choose your emotions. True happiness comes from within. It cannot be forced upon us by someone else, nor can we force it upon someone. It is a choice, just like choosing what outfit you wear each day or what to make for dinner.

When you buy a new dress, or a pair of new shoes or earrings, you buy the ones that make you feel good or happy. You wouldn't buy a new dress that didn't fit right or make you feel good, right? So why in the world would would you choose emotions and feelings that didn't make you feel good?

Guaranteed, you will have things happen that will make you angry or upset. And for a while, you will need to experience that emotion and feel angry and upset. But you need to let it go and move on. People who harbor anger and dwell on problems or past mistakes don't seem to be very happy people. If we let others get to us, influence our emotions - we are giving them power over us. When others cause us anger or pain, we are giving them our power.

I find that I am automatically drawn to people who are positive and upbeat. The women on this blog are perfect examples of this. I think LDS women especially need to cultivate these qualities so that they can have a positive influence on the people around them. The knowledge we have of the gospel gives us every reason to have hope and be positive. I truly, honestly believe that we are a force for good in this world and can be a light to others.

Just think about it, if all the wonderful LDS women everywhere would let their light shine we could make a powerful difference in the world around us. Never underestimate that light you have inside of you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anticipation is always more fun

It seems like I've been an avid anticipater my whole life. My personality profile suggests this about my preferred line of thinking: "What could be is always more exciting than what is." As a kid, the anticipation of any event almost eclipsed the event itself. Sometimes the buildup was so emotionally absorbing that the event almost felt anticlimactic in comparison.

I thought of the fun of anticipation the other night as I sat with some friends in my living room for Book Club. We read an old favorite, Pride and Prejudice, and had a good discussion. We also compared the book to the more prevalent movies released in recent decades. This led to a more general discussion about romance in books and movies, and one of my friends mentioned the fun of the buildup to that big kiss, the big embrace, the deliciousness of the tension and anticipation.

Remember when you were young and reading a book where the hero and heroine sat by each other, their fingers almost touching? Sometimes the simplest of gestures are the most satisfying. I remember being 13 and reading one of my beloved Trixie Belden books. Jim and Trixie HELD HANDS on a plane ride at the end of the story. Actually, she put her fist in his palm and he closed his fingers around it.

I was in absolute ecstasy. I must have read that book a million times for that scene alone.

I think there's a crucial element to a good love story that will work almost every time for me. Now, the fact that the book must be well written with compelling characters is a given. So ok, assuming those things are in place, the thing I want is tension. I want tension between the hero and heroine. By the time he finally takes her hand or they move in for that kiss, I want to be saying, preferably out loud, "Oh come ON already!" Make it worth my while. I want a story to be emotionally charged and the characters emotions to be deep and intense. I want the air around them charged and the passion intense with just a glance or a meeting of the eyes without a word even spoken.

Now, granted, I do not feel these things from reading Pride and Prejudice. The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is much more...subdued. At least on the page. My friend assures me that the Kiera Knightly version is much more grand and charged with love, drama and a fantastic music score. I have yet to see it myself, but it's on my list of to do's.

As a writer, I suppose my Ideal Reader would be the one who sighs at the end of my books, completely emotionally satisfied and fulfilled with the romance thing. My eternal quest will probably be to write the perfect book about the perfect romance that people will read again and again.

I suppose I should mention that my personality profile opens with this description: "If ever there was a personality destined to die for love, this is it."