Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pioneer Days Then And Now



It seemed to be a fitting way to spend Pioneer Day. On Friday, July 23rd, we loaded up our family along with my dad, and we hit the trails. We headed for Wyoming to explore that area of the Mormon trail.

I had never seen the historical sites of Martin’s Cove, Devil’s Gate, Independence Rock, Fort Bridger, and the Willie Handcart site at Rock Creek after the pioneers had crossed Rocky Ridge before.

Though I knew bits and pieces of the stories behind each of these places, I shamefully admit I didn’t know the full history nor had I taken the time to research the events in its entirety to know what actually happened to our early pioneers of the church. While I claim that Gerald Lund’s Fire of the Covenant is certainly one of my favorite historical novels, and it did indeed give me an idea of the events of that time period , I still did not have a good knowledge or understanding of everything that took place—(which I should have taken the time to learn ) Without that knowledge I don’t feel I have I fully appreciated what our pioneers experienced or suffered.

While I certainly can’t write all that I learned this past weekend, and I feel so inadequate to express the feelings I have walked away from this experience with , I do want to mention a couple of things I learned about some of the places we visited.

Independence Rock was indeed named on Independence Day by fur trappers who found this rock July 4, 1830. Emigrants stopped by here for refreshing water of the Sweetwater River. Many names and dates can still be seen on the rocks surface.

Fort Bridger: On the last leg of the early Pioneer’s journey westward, they would come to a fort. This of course was Fort Bridger, named after Jim Bridger the famed mountain man who set up the fort for trading purposes and a way station for emigrant wagon trains. It was written, “When the pioneer company rolled into the fort, they saw, “four log houses and a small enclosure for animals.” What we saw was a state park with many reconstructed buildings including military buildings, a trading post, and a museum. They are even using part of the site to do an archaeological dig.

Martin’s Cove: In 1856 many of the Martin Handcart company were caught in an October blizzard. Food and supplies were scarce. They were down to a quarter of a cup of flour per day per adult. They took up temporary refuge in a cove, but so many were weak and ill and of the group, 150 died. (Not all there in the cove) Still, due to rescue efforts sent from President Brigham Young in Salt Lake, more than 425 of the handcart pioneers were saved.

We were able to go up into the cove. On one side you are can to see where they camped and on the other you see where they buried those who passed away. Because the ground was frozen, they were unable to dig graves. Therefore their loved ones were put into shallow graves with only the protection of rocks to cover them. At night they could hear the wolves howling. Loved ones feared the wolves would ravage the graves. How devastating would that be? There is one story told that a woman couldn’t bear the thought of her one true love being ravaged by wolves. Her one and only choice possession she had was a shawl. In the night her husband passed away. She begged the men in camp to tie her loved one up in a tree, in the shawl, where the wolves couldn’t get to him. As they broke camp, she turned around and the last thing she saw was her shawl blowing in the wind that her husband was wrapped in. Later that spring, men went back and gave him a proper burial and the shawl was retrieved. It is now in a museum. Many, many, more stories like these were shared.

The Willie Handcart Group at Rock Creek: This group was caught in the same storm, in the same dire straits, but only a little further ahead than the Martin handcart group. In one night 13 people died and were buried in a mass grave the next day. Two of the men who helped dig that grave died later that day and were buried just a little further away from the other’s burial site. Of over 500 members, 430 survived.

One sweet young girl, Bodil Mortensen, age 9 of Denmark was coming to Salt Lake to meet her sister. She was traveling with a family who were friends of her parents. One of her jobs was to take care of the young son of that family. Another was to collect firewood for the family’s campfire. No firewood could be found. All she could find was sagebrush. Early that morning, young Bodil was found by the wheel of the handcart, with an armful of sagebrush, frozen to death. She was counted among the 13 who had passed away.

Each of these people who crossed the plains leave for us an incredible story of courage and faith. For each of us they have left a legacy.

There is an indescribable feeling in both of these places. Missionaries are there to answer questions if you have any, or to tell you about the people who had been there if you’d like to know. There are statues that certainly bring a tear to your eye, a lump to your throat, and sorrow as well as joy to your heart at Martin’s cove. At Rock Creek I found a quote from the dedication of the bronze monument and the granite marker with the thirteen names of the people buried who were with the Willie Handcart group. It certainly sums up feelings better than anyone else ever could. It is by President Gordon B. Hinckley. He said, “Rock Creek is sacred and holy ground… How tremendous their heroism in the face of odds that are almost impossible to understand… in terms of self-sacrifice, in terms of courage, in terms of faith, in terms of facing up to adversity, there is no greater example in the history of this nation… We have a great inheritance… a tremendous responsibility to live up to it. God bless us to be faithful, to be true to that which meant so much to those who died here…”

As I sat and listened to the stories of these individuals, I marveled at the tremendous faith, strength and commitment. I asked myself over and over, would I have that kind of strength if called upon to endure those kinds of challenges? I honestly don’t know. I pray with all my heart that I could say yes, but I don’t know. I do know how much my testimony means to me, how much I love my Father in Heaven and my family so I do hope with all my heart that I would have that kind of strength and faith to endure. I recognize it is my love and my faith and my commitment to these that would carry me through. Is that what kept them going? Is that what drove them on to reach Zion? Again I ask myself, could I endure those same hardships?

I love and admire these people for what they have taught me. I have felt sorrow and shed many tears this past weekend for the loss. I am truly humbled to hear of the many experiences of sacrifices they all made and yet the joy they had in doing so. I marvel at the miracles that took place at such a difficult time. And now I feel blessed and very grateful that I finally recognize what all this means to me.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Language Barrier

by Anna Jones Buttimore

My fourth book, working title Honeymoon, has been accepted for publication by Cedar Fort, a publisher I haven’t worked with before. I’m very excited by that, and flattered that they suggested that my book didn’t need to be edited. However, not sharing their confidence (or wanting to take the entire blame for any mistakes) I sent it to my much-admired and trusted freelance editor anyway. I’m very glad I did. She corrected many errors and clarified many sections and generally improved it considerably. But something else she did was to point out words that my primarily American readership wouldn’t understand.

I have now spent, I think, about 3 months in total in the USA and had thought I knew all the language differences, but apparently not. Among the words I had to change were “coach” (which I changed to “bus”, even though a coach is a more luxurious form of transport than a public bus), “tower block” (“high-rise building”), “sunbed” (“lounger”), “lay-by” (“parking area”) and several others I couldn’t find another word for, including resort and central reservation.

The fact is, special relationship notwithstanding, Britain and America are very different, even in their use of the same language. The culture and outlook are entirely different. We Brits don’t do enthusiasm, effusiveness, emotion or earnestness. Americans don’t seem to do sarcasm or self-deprecation, at least not to the same level.

I have often reflected that in a UK LDS ward on Fast and Testimony Sunday you can always tell the converts. Members who have grown up in the church (generally surrounded by American missionaries) know that it is acceptable, even expected, if tears of emotion flow as they bear their testimony. Converts have been raised with the British rule that any display of emotion is unacceptable. They will not cry on the stand, and turn away, embarrassed and awkward, when others do.

It’s interesting too that there are problems which arise in the church here in the UK because most of the lesson manuals and materials we use come straight from Salt Lake and are written, to all intents and purposes, in American. My funniest memory is of a Sunday School teacher reading a story about some pioneers. The manual said that they “rode all the way to Salt Lake City standing up”. Our teacher looked in wonder at his class and explained that these pioneers had made a huge sacrifice in travelling to Zion “all the way on their horses, but standing up on the horses!” We were all agog. Why wouldn’t they sit on the horses? How difficult and uncomfortable that journey must have been! Later, of course, I discovered that in America the verb “to ride” can also apply to trains and buses and other forms of transport. In the UK, it always refers to a horse, or occasionally a bicycle, but never any other form of transport. We might travel by train, or take the train, or go by train, but we never ride a train. (That would probably suggest you were straddled on the roof, which is an interesting concept in itself.)

I love America, though. I really miss the openness and honesty, the friendliness and the optimism. I miss wide open spaces, free drinks refills and ranch dressing. Yesterday my family and I visited the first Taco Bell to open in the UK, about half-an-hour from our home. It was part of a food court in the second-biggest mall in Britain, so there were plenty of other places to choose from, but none of them had a queue (line). Everyone, it seemed, was in the queue at Taco Bell because it is the only Mexican food outlet in the country. And other little bits of America seem to be arriving. On the way to the mall we passed a hoarding (billboard) advertising Moutain Dew, although I’ve yet to see it in the shops. And on the way out of the mall we passed a stand selling gelato, something I first discovered in Utah in April. It looks as though America is coming here! (Yes, I know gelato is Italian.)

That’s not to say I don’t need to go back after all, because I do. Clearly I need to spend much more time learning the language.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Making Waves


On Saturday, following a stressful week, I found myself enjoying the great Bear Lake with some of my family. One of my sons, his wife, and their small daughter, came up to spend the weekend. That break at the lake was very much needed. We took over a picnic lunch, a canopy for shade, and camp chairs to kick back on and relax. But what helped me unwind more than anything else was something I haven't done in years. I ventured out into the lake and bobbed on a plastic flotation device. It was great. I leaned back, enjoyed the slight breeze, and rode the waves while visiting with my son. What a wonderful reprieve from the tension-filled week I had survived.

I did have quite an analogy surface as I lay back, watching the clouds go by. It was much more fun riding the waves as they came in, than to sit on still water. In other words, the friction that caused the waves made for a more entertaining ride. Hmmm. Food for thought.

I will admit there are days when I long for smooth sailing in my life--moments when there are no waves. But what would I be missing if that wish was granted? Would I arrive at the end of my journey and find that I had learned nothing of importance as a result? Enduring large unpredictable waves adds spice and color to our lives. We may not enjoy all of the foaming crests that descend without warning. But there is something exhilarating about learning to ride the waves as they come.

Since my life to this point has been filled to the brim with varied challenges, tests, sorrows, and joys, I suspect that trend will continue until I'm "safely dead," a phrase I'm borrowing from an inspired talk given by a former stake president. The winds of change will continue to bring mountainous waves my way. With God's help, I can learn to ride through all of them until the final breeze fades into stillness. Will waves follow me into the hereafter? Time will tell, but I'm almost certain I won't be basking on still water. I believe there will always be challenges, growth, and learning; what we gain is dependent on the type of journey we desire to make.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BLESSED, HONORED PIONEERS

There's more than one kind of pioneer and though I have strong feelings of love and admiration for the men, women, and children who pushed, pulled, and walked two thousand miles from the banks of the Mississippi to the Salt Lake Valley, they weren't the only pioneers. A lot of my ancestors were among those people who made that hazardous journey, both by handcart and wagon train. Most of them actually started their journey in Europe with a dangerous sea voyage preceding their long trek. One ancestor and her husband made it from England to Pennsylvania then lacked the funds to even build a handcart so they left their group and signed on as indentured servants. My ancestor came on to Salt Lake when her indentured time was finished, but her husband disappeared. It was rumored he died in the Civil War, but no research has confirmed that and he may have disappeared into slavery as many indentured servants did at that time, or he may have died and no one bothered to notify his wife. One ancestor lost his mother at sea and his father was buried along the Sweetwater in Wyoming. He and his little sisters came on to the valley alone. Still one other was thrown out of her home by her wealthy husband for joining the Church. She sneaked back one night, kidnapped her children, and fled to America with them. Standing on the deck of the ship that was to carry them to America and eventually to Utah, she hid a runaway chimney sweep under her petticoats while officers searched the ship for him.

But what about those other pioneers? My younger brother and sister have certificates that proclaim them polio pioneers. They were among the group of children who first were given the Salk vaccine to prevent polio. Philo Farnsworth is widely referred to as the pioneer inventor of television. We frequently refer to John Glenn and Neil Armstrong as space pioneers. I think pioneers can be anyone who, at great risk, is first to do something new, to lead the way to something better.

As Utah celebrates Pioneer Day, we tend to place the emphasis on those early Mormon Pioneers who first settled the valley and perhaps this is right in Utah, but members of the Church living elsewhere may feel a little left out on this holiday that within the Church is given prominent importance. I've never thought those pioneers who came to Utah, then were promptly uprooted to settle in surrounding states have been given proper credit for their double duty as pioneers. I also think the many converts to the Church who were first in their family to be baptized are another type of pioneers who should count Pioneer Day as their special day too. Another group of pioneers I deeply admire are the ones who joined the Church, but remained in their homelands or states, consequently suffering at the hands of those who ridiculed their faith or thought them fools.

There are more pioneers to come. Some of the strongest and best pioneers will be those who face the onslaught of temptations and fears that will precede the final days of this millennium and usher in the long prophesied thousand years of peace and the reign of our Lord.

What sets a pioneer apart from others is mainly courage. A favorite saying of mine is "Courage doesn't mean a lack of fear; it's saddling up anyway." I think that's the basic reason we celebrate pioneers. I feel certain that all of those who left homes, families, and all that was familiar to travel half way around the world were scared. But along with their fear was an even stronger belief that they were doing right, so they did it. Along with the excitement and thirst for knowledge, I suspect there was a good dose of fear in Armstrong's heart as he took that first step onto the moon, but he did it anyway. When my six-and-seven-year-old brother and sister received those polio shots we'd just learned that the first batch of serum had been mistakenly delivered with a live virus and those children who received it came down with the dreaded disease, but my siblings accepted it, though I suspect they were more scared of the needles than the possibility of contracting polio.

As this week of Days of 47 events winds down to Pioneer Day on Saturday, let's pay tribute to those pioneers we all owe our thanks, whether we are their descendants or not. They wrote a vital piece of our Church's history. Let's remember those other pioneers too, the ones who came to the Gospel one-by-one, those who remained behind to lay the cornerstones in other places, and the ones who will carry forth with courage to face the latter days. As we celebrate with picnics, rodeos, parades, and fireworks, we should pause to remember those whose courage made the 'desert blossom as a rose' and left a pattern of courage for us to follow.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Seattle Woman Magazine: 10 Ways Smart Women Sabotage Their Lives, Careers and Relationships

Seattle Woman Magazine: 10 Ways Smart Women Sabotage Their Lives, Careers and Relationships

Women wear many different hats and play many different roles throughout the day. Many are a wife and a mother, sometimes step-mom, some a single mom. We are daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors, work associates, teachers and ward members. We clean, repair, cook, organize, shop, drive, wash, scrub, and manage about thirty other tasks, all in the same day. We are expected to take care of our husbands and families, keep our houses clean and orderly, fulfill our callings, be involved in PTA and community events, and scrapbook.

Did I mention that we were supposed to also take care of ourselves?

Hmm, it's kind of hard to fit that in sometimes, isn't it?

My daughter came across this article in a newspaper in Seattle and shared it with me. As I read it I found myself nodding in agreement and stopping occasionally to ponder some of the statements. Basically the article talks about the ways we, as women, don't reach our full potential because of self-defeating actions. I've always believed that once we recognize personal weaknesses and understand them, we can overcome them and actually turn them into strengths. Ether 12:27 tells us this exact thing, "And if men come unto me I will show unto 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."

I fully believe that women have incredible abilities and capacities to be a force of good in the world. Especially when we focus our energy on the same thing. If you are feeling discouraged, unappreciated, or frustrated, I hope you'll take a look at this article. Hopefully you'll come away from it feeling energized and encourage. You have greatness inside of you, a divine nature. I just thought I'd remind you, in case you were so busy you'd forgotten.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nature


I find my solace most often in nature.
When I'm overwhelmed by the grittiness of life, the sadness, or the chaos; I take myself off into nature. I pack a lunch and walk into the mountains, or sit beside a stream. I look out over a lake and ponder the vagaries of life. I feel the wind brushing aside anxious thoughts and worry. I find a calmness that reminds me to live one day at a time.
Nature is God's handiwork. I feel His presence in the glorious wild flowers and sweet birdsong. I feel His love in the rustle of aspen leaves and sparkling rivulets. And so, nature is where I turn for peace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good Things to Come

I tried to gather my thoughts together, wishing to come up with a topic to blog about.

I have to admit I had one post I had previously started, knowing my turn to blog was fast approaching. However, as I tried to finish it, nothing really came out sounding the way I wanted it to.

Instead, my mind kept wandering to other thoughts. That is, that so many of my dearest friends, or their families, and even members within my own family are facing many difficult challenges at this time.

While each and every one of us hold each other in our thoughts and prayers, often times I feel so limited with my words to offer comfort and support.

So, I went searching. It was fairly easy thanks to modern day technology (the internet) and that great Church site we have – lds.org. I found a message from Elder Jeffery R. Holland entitled, Good Things to Come.

When I listened to this wonderful message, it made me smile, it touched my heart, and it gave me a sense of renewed hope. I found strength and comfort. It was a gentle reminder, and one I needed to hear at the moment.

To all my friends and loved ones who are facing their own set of challenges, I hope you know how much I love you and that I care. It is my hope that Elder Holland’s message uplifts you the same way that it did for me.

video

Reveling in Revision


One of the aspects of writing that I surprisingly enjoy is revision mode. I find it interesting how many items I catch when I go through a manuscript with fresh eyes, especially after a space of time. Things that I missed before stand out like a sore thumb. Sentences are strengthened, tightened, and often deleted. Missing words are added. Paragraphs and scenes are plumped out or stretched. Sometimes when extensive editing is required it can be a painful experience. Many times a favorite scene is cut in the best interest of the storyline. But it has been my experience that extensive polishing always makes for a better book down the road.

I suspect there is an analogy in this process for life. We start out fresh, new, inexperienced. It takes years to polish, mold, and tighten our characters. Some traits need to be deleted. Other areas of our lives need a bit of stretching. Enduring the Refiner's Fire is often a painful ordeal, but in the end, we are better for all that we experience. Every stage of life is a new opportunity for growth, learning, and refining. And when it's all said and done, when all of the "revisions" have taken place, we will hopefully be what our Father intended in the beginning.

Music - the Muse

by Anna Jones Buttimore

It's the 25th Anniversary of Live Aid today, and I remember it well. In 1985 a friend persuaded me that if I was going to watch any of it, Queen were the band I shouldn't miss. So (because my parents hate any non-classical music) I went upstairs to my parents' bedroom and watched it on the little portable TV in their room, lying on my stomach across their bed.

I was blown away, stunned by just how good rock music could be. And from that moment I was a Queen fan. I joined their fan club (I finally neglected to renew my membership 20 years later) and went to the local Woolworth's to buy every Queen album (vinyl) I could find. I could only get one - A Night at the Opera - but I played it so many times on my scratchy little record player it's amazing there was any of it left by the time I left it in the sun five years later and it warped. In 1986, aged 17, I went to my first ever concert and saw Queen (supported by Status Quo and INXS) at Wembley Stadium in London. It turned out to be their last tour - Freddie Mercury died six years later. I'm so glad I persuaded my parents to let me go. For several years my entire wardrobe consisted only of Queen t-shirts and jeans, and my first husband, also a Queen fan, told me that I first caught his eye because of my choice of clothing.

Most important of all, I think, Queen's music inspired me to write. I still haven't finished it, but I started writing a fantasy novel called "Horses Born with Eagle Wings", based on many of the themes, characters and stories on the first two Queen albums. Even the title is a Queen lyric. (Should I mention that my tattoo is of a winged horse called Eagle? I'm a convert, remember...) That led to a general love of writing, and you know the rest.

Ironically, when my first book was published, I wrote in my author bio that I loved rock music. My editor felt that wasn't appropriate and suggested that the bio just note my love of "music" lest I be seen to be advocating thrash metal to my LDS audience. I dug my heels in and refused, because the fact is that I love rock music and I hate jazz, opera, rap and country.

I thought I'd never feel as inspired by music again as I was by Queen 25 years ago today, but last week my eldest daughter plugged her MP3 player into the car as we travelled together to go shopping, and I discovered Muse. They are well named. And yes, I've just gone out and bought every Muse album, and I'm going to see them at Wembley Stadium in September, with my daughter. I suspect some wardrobe changes are imminent.

As I write this I am listening to "Knights of Cydonia" and I've included lyrics from this, and from "Uprising" (my favourite Muse track) in my current fantasy novel, Emon and the Empire. I'm not the first writer to be inspired by Muse (I can't listen to "Supermassive Black Hole" without seeing vampires playing baseball) and like Sister Meyer I am finding that listening to their music whilst writing helps conjure up the required atmosphere and makes the words flow better.

So on this auspicious date I would like to publicly honour the bands whose music has provided the soundtrack to my life, countless hours of pleasure, and the inspiration behind some of my books. Queen - Magnum - Def Leppard - Muse - Thank you for sharing your talent and helping me to share mine.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Impressions

While recently working in the Temple cafeteria, I had the wonderful experience of serving dinner to Elder Richard G. Scott, Sister Madsen, (the sweet widow of Brother Truman R. Madsen) and their guest whom I am unsure but I suspect was a grandson of one of theirs.

I loved serving them and visiting with them. All were very complimentary of the food and service. It was such a pleasure to be in their company.

Upon returning to the kitchen, I was told by my fellow worker I had a green thing stuck in the middle of my teeth. Now, this was no small thing, it was a great big piece of leafy green lettuce. I was horrified considering the company I had just been in. Such is the way things go for me… I can laugh it off--several days later. But it has me thinking about first impressions.

First of all, I looked up the meaning of first impressions: It is a first consideration or judgment.

We are told we are not to “judge” or that we are to judge in righteousness. As I think of the definition and this warning coupled with the definition of “first impressions”—particularly the word judgment I can’t help but think how I am rarely correct with my first impressions of people. I find that often times those who I am most nervous to meet; that I feel intimidated by, are often the most down to earth and lovable people. In fact, it is true that in a some instances there are people I was terrified to meet, because I admired them so much for their talents, that turned out to be completely wonderful just by being themselves and not just defined by their talents. They became my some of my best friends. I admired them for first being who they are.

Then there are those who I feel I may have much in common with, seem to be the ones I end up least connected to and often the simple things we have in common, may in fact be our only link.

I have learned very well, to pay little heed to my first impressions, as they usually end up being nothing more than snap judgments and I would hate to lose out on some of the wonderful friendships I could have had because of a wrong first impression. (There are of course, an exception to this rule when a first impression warns you that a person is dangerous or could harm you, etc. In that case I would pay very close attention and follow it's promptings!)

So, if I have such a difficult time with my "first considerations," do others struggle as well? How do people perceive me for the first time? It makes me wonder. I may score more points if I don’t walk around with big green things hanging between my front teeth…

I have read that it takes 30 seconds to two minutes for people to make up their minds about you. This may be way overestimating things. I have also read it takes seven seconds to seventeen seconds to make a first impression. Whichever is correct, that doesn’t give a person much time to make a lasting consideration or to have a judgment placed on them. I do know that it is said, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

I found an article written by Bill Lampton who has a PhD,. He made a list of seven things that make a good strong first impression. I won’t quote him of the article in it’s entirety, some is not word for word, but I thought the ideas were good. And if I may, I’d like to add and eighth one to the list at the bottom. So here we go:

1. The greatest way to make a positive first impression is to demonstrate immediately that the other person, not you, is the center of action and conversation. --He says if the spotlight is only on you you’ll miss opportunities for friendships, jobs, networking, and sales, etc. If you show that you are other- centered, people will want to see you again.

2. Closely related: Use superb listening skills. Using prompts like, “How interesting!” or “What did you do next?” shows excellent listening skills and positive verbal cues. Maintain eye contact and avoid looking over your shoulder for an escape route.

3. Using the name of a new acquaintance shows you paid attention from the start. It also makes the conversation more personal.

4. Be careful with Humor. Although a quip or two may serve as an icebreaker, you don’t want sarcasm to backfire. You don’t know a stranger’s sensitivities.

5. Follow Dr. Wayne Dryer’s advice, offered in his in his book “Real Magic,” by “giving up the need to be right.” Confrontations with someone you’ve just met will spoil any rapport you can have. Wait until you can establish credibility before you challenge another’s statements.

6. Appearance counts. What he had to say here applied more for work or job interviews. But I still think the way we take care of ourselves portrays a message no matter where we are.

7. As a communication specialist, I have to point out that an individual’s speaking style impacts a first impression, maybe more than we wish—listeners judge our intelligence, our education, our cultural level, even our leadership abilities on the words we select-- and by the way we say them.

8. And the one I wanted to add was to not walk around with green things in your teeth. Perhaps this falls under the appearance category?

I do know that I tend to joke around a lot and I know I take for granted that people know where my heart is at. I would never mean to intentionally hurt or mistreat any one. But what of first impressions? Number four caught my attention and so did a few of the others on this list. And it all started with #8.

I know that I’ll be more mindful of my first considerations of people because to me, no second chances at giving a good first impressions seems—well, it just seems a little too judgmental for my peace of mind. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Motherhood - the pay stinks but the benefits are amazing!


Two of my sisters and I took our kids to Ikea the other day. This is one of our favorite stores and thank goodness, it's very kid friendly (between the three of us, we had 8 kids with us).

We descended upon the store and began our adventure of winding through the aisles, directing the kids through different sections of the store, pulling them off the beds (the mattresses are definitely durable and quite bouncy, I might add) and catching them as they tested how far they could go in the swinging chairs without falling out (I'm sorry, but even I would love a swinging chair in my bedroom).

Needless to say, though, shopping with eight kids is tiring. It was getting near dinner time and we new the little tykes were getting hungry. And then my sister remembered hearing that kids under twelve ate FREE at Ikea.

The three of us giggled as we herded the kids toward the cafeteria. Why not ask, we figured. We arrived to find literally no one else in line. We had the place to ourselves. Laughing skeptically, we approached the lady at the cash register.

"Hi," I said, "Is it true that kids under twelve eat free?"

"It's true," she answered.

"Is that with a paying adult?"

"No. The kids eat free."

"Really?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Free?"

The girl nodded, apparently amused with my obvious shock and disbelief.

It felt like Christmas.

I turned to my sisters, trying to hold back my excitement and laughter and said, "It's free."

They did their best to contain their own laughter as they scanned the faces of eight, eager and hungry children, under the age of twelve.

"Okay," I said with a shrug, "grab a tray."

Knocking over a few of the smaller ones, the big kids raced to the counter and formed a line. With pure joy, my sisters and I watched as our stair-step brood of offspring made their choices and received their meals, all FREE. If you haven't had the meatballs with Lingonberry jam at Ikea, you are missing out.

Needless to say, it was the best shopping outing ever and the kids are dying to go back as soon as possible.

So, next time you're having a crazy day and you need to fun outing, go shopping at Ikea. Take your kids, hey, take the neighbor's kids. I don't know how long the deal lasts, but it's definitely worth the trip.



FYI: A CNN report stated that a study was done on the work a mother puts in each day and how much she would make if she actually got paid. The firm conducting the study concluded that "the typical mother puts in a 92-hour work week and works at least 10 jobs. In order of hours spent on them per week, these are: housekeeper, day-care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and psychologist. By figuring out the median salaries for each position, and calculating the average number of hours worked at each, the firm came up with $138,095 -- three percent higher than last year's results.

Even mothers who work full-time jobs outside the home put in $85,939 worth of work as mothers, according to Salary.com."

Friday, July 2, 2010

America, the Beautiful, America the Blessed

I'm not ashamed to admit that I cry when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. I picture Francis Scott Key and his friend standing on the deck of the ship, peering through the breaking dawn, fearful of what they would - or wouldn't see. Then the sun reveals the heart-stopping view of the American flag, still waving over the fort, though tattered and blackened by the battle which had raged throughout the night. My heart beats in gratitude for the inspiration he received to write that anthem.

I hear Patrick Henry's stirring speech, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!" and hail those early heroes who knew how dangerous was their course, but plunged ahead anyway, giving me the opportunity to raise my children in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

When we were in Armenia, there were only two flights in and out of that little Christian country per week and only one friendly border that could be crossed because of wars with neighboring Muslim countries. One day sitting by the open window I heard the sound of an airplane. I commented to my husband in the other room what an unusual sound it was in Armenia. Having lived on and near numerous Air Force bases in our 25 years in the Air Force, it was a sound we were so used to, we eventually didn't give it a second thought. But when he called back, "That's the sound of freedom," I realized the significant truth in that statement.

Freedom! What a beautiful word. What a privilege to live in this country where so many gave their lives and their all that their posterity could enjoy those priceless freedoms they held so dear. Those 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence sacrificed their families, their homes, and some even their lives because of their stand against the crushing oppression of unreasonable taxation.

When Thomas Jefferson said: "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor," he meant it, as did each of those men.

John Adams said: "All that I have, and all that I am, and all that hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God, it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence, now, and INDEPENDENCE FOR EVER."

". . .Thomas Jefferson tells that on the day of our nation's birth in the little hall in Philadelphia, debate had rated for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men, hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign a Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headman's axe," and the issue remained in doubt.

Then a man rose and spoke. Jefferson described him as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice failing, he said, "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your next, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever." He fell back, exhausted.

The 56 delegates, swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed a document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not be found, no could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors. Fifty-six men, a little band so unique, of which we have never seen the like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor

What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were mercants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.

John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year, he lived in the forest and caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, and his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.

Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clmyer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton. Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.

But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, three million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, millions of people with a pedigree which includes the bloodlines of all the world. There have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.

Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights: that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth and we never should." Written by President Ronald Reagan, 1981 on a yellow pad at Camp David for Parade Magazine.

I couldn't have said it better. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing on Sunday, the 234th anniversary of that day in 1776, remember how incredibly blessed we are to enjoy the freedoms provided us by a loving Father in Heaven, and all those who have spilled their precious blood to keep us free from the tyranny that ever endeavors to take it from us. We must always remember, freedom isn't free. It must be preserved and protected, even from within our own borders and government.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fourth of July!

Sunday will be the Fourth of July; the celebration for our country’s declaration of independence from the rule of monarchy of Great Britain. It is one of my favorite holidays. I love this country. I stand in awe of the brilliance of the founding fathers, I marvel at the strength and simplicity of the Constitution they scribed, and I cherish the liberty that came of their struggle.

It is a blessing to live in this country—a blessing that many Americans have been lax to appreciate and honor. I think the current attempts to twist this country’s foundational principles have brought a drowsing population awake. City and country Americans alike are renewing their commitment to the tenets of the original Constitutional concepts; they’re speaking out against a transforming of this nation’s purpose; they’re reevaluating their own virtue and values.

Samuel Adams said: “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue.” Adams also said: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

George Washington referred to religion and morality as the “great Pillars of human happiness.”
My voice is small, but I concur with these great men who pledged their lives, property, and sacred honor, that in order for America to remain good, her people must be good.

As I pledge allegiance to the flag, this Fourth of July, I will also pledge to be a better person. One by one we can set America back on a path of greatness.