Friday, July 27, 2012

Family Reunions

We just returned from our Gardner family reunion in Idaho. We always parlay that into a fun time on the road there. We stopped in St. George, met our former mission president and his wife and saw Aladdin at Tuacahn. What a production! Even a flying carpet out over the audience and projection onto a giant spray of water and 3-D glasses, not to mention the great music and story. Fun! I was surprised they'd never been there when they only live two hours away. The next day they followed us to Mountain Meadow Massacre site - again - they live in Utah so they'd never seen it. :) Then on to Cedar City to wander through Betty's Antiques on the south end of town. Great stuff! Bought my son some old books for Christmas - one was published in 1893. We took in Les Miz at the Shakespeare Festival - love that show and the whole festival. We try to go every year and take in a couple of shows, but since we had to be in Idaho Friday morning, we only had time for the matinee this trip. (I'm still singing the songs from that play a week later!) We got on the road immediately after the performance and drove as far as Lehi. Our granddaughter is staying near that exit and met us the next morning for breakfast. Her family ws just transferred from Las Vegas to South Dakota (Ellsworth AFB at Rapid City) so she was feeling a little lonely. Our destination was Lava Hot Spring outside of Pocatello, Idaho and we made it from California before any of the Idaho family arrived except Glenn's oldest sister who was hosting the reunion this year. Two of our kids were able to come and we floated down the river in tubes with the little ones. The three-year-old liked it while we were floating - didn't like it much when we were dumped at the waterfalls, but Violet - seven this week - loved every minute! She wanted to go back again and again. "That was the mostest fun I've every had in my life!" Violet and I were in a double tube and got dumped at the first waterfall. I'm underwater, under the tube trying to get to the surface and worrying that she is underwater and not able to get up. But I don't think she even got her hair wet - that time. The next time we all went under again and I lost my tube. Just not agile enough to jump and grasp it before it floated out of reach in the fast water. (I hated for my son to see how uncoordinated I am. I'd like to perpetuate the myth that I'm still able to do all the things I could do at 40, but I think the truth is coming out.) After a fun day in the sun and water, we stayed with my sister in Pocatello for the night so it actually was a double reunion - both sides of the family. Saturday we met at the Gardner family homestead on the Snake River in Blackfoot for brunch and business. It was great to see all grand-nieces and nephews that I try to keep up with on facebook. (side note here: I'm actually glad Covenant asked us to join facebook - otherwise I'd never know what half the family is doing!) It's really wonderful to see the growth of the family, to watch the generations as they mature and expand their families. It is so important to stay connected, even if we had to drive a thousand miles and back to do it. More activities that afternoon, then we stayed with my sister in Idaho Falls. Not enough time! We left Sunday morning for California and the long trip back. Thank heaven for audio books. The next Gardner reunion will be our responsibility so I was happy to see Jennie's report on May Ranch. Definitely going to look into that for our group. I feel sad that some don't want to stay connected. Family is truly the most important thing in the world. We need to stay in touch. After all, who else should we love as much as family?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out of turn Again

Here I go, posting out of turn again. I have a speaking engagement tonight and I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow, so naturally instead of thinking about my talk or packing, I've been wasting time on Face Book. I did a candy survey to see how many kinds of candy out of a choice of 100 different kinds I've tried.  I got a score of 75.  Obviously I have a sweet tooth. I learned all kinds of interesting tidbits; I just can't remember any of them right now.  I saw a cute picture of my granddaughter, Gracie, checked out the wedding decorations my young friend Kristie did for a recent wedding, and saw the bruises on a great nephew's leg where he got zapped by an electrical accident.  My phone and my Kindle are both plugged into their chargers so I guess I'm getting ready in a way.

Stalling is probably the word for what I'm doing; you see I'm a bit nervous about tonight.  Speaking doesn't usually worry me too much if I'm talking to book people; we share a common language and love.  Tonight's talk has nothing to do with reading or writing. I've been asked to talk on a subject I dearly love, but have a difficult time expressing my feelings about because it touches my emotions so strongly.  You see, I've been asked to talk about temples and temple service.  I've served in the temple for four years now and since I'm basically a storyteller, there are plenty of stories I'd love to share; unfortunately most are too sacred to speak of outside the Lord's House.  It's a difficult task for me to speak on a topic that touches my emotions, one where I have to be careful not to overstep what is appropriate, and one where I want so much for my audience to share the deep love and reverence I feel for these beautiful places.

I'm both excited and nervous about our vacation/reunion.  I've had some serious health problems the past couple of months (pancreatitis) and when I talked to my doctor about going on this trip he said, "You'll be fine as long as you're within a couple of hours of a hospital emergency room, should you have another attack."  I didn't find that comment too encouraging, especially as we'll be at a ranch along the Salmon River where ambulance service means a helicopter.  There will be three RNs and two paramedics in our group, so I'm not really worried.  Besides I've felt much better the past few days. Still it niggles at the back of my mind and I'm giving running the river a pass this time around.   My husband thinks I should skip fishing too, but I can't do that!  He's not a fisherman and the only time I get to fish is when I'm with my son-in-law, Rich.

I suppose I really should get off the computer, take a shower, and decide what to wear.  I should look over my notes one more time as well.  I'm afraid there's a little bit of Scarlet O'Hara in me when it comes to this talk; I'd rather think about it later.  The funny thing is once I start talking it will be hard to stay within my allotted time and when it's over I'll be glad I did it.  Go figure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

In a perfect world.......

If I was in charge, there are many things I'd do to make my world more perfect. Just a few of the important things I'd change: 1. Any politician or salesman who lied would immediately turn blue. Come to think of it, ANYONE who lied would turn blue. Thus honesty would be the norm. 2. Virtue and Integrity would be re-enthroned as the most important characteristics to be fostered. Most every other good thing falls into one of those categories. 3. Children would honor and revere their parents and tenderly and lovingly care for them in their old age. 4. Handouts would cease. Hands up would prevail. 5. Hollywood would discover how much money could be made from making only family movies and become innovative in bringing wonderful stories to the screen. No more R-rated garbage would emit from our film capitol. 6. The media would revert to their former "investigate and discover the truth, and report only the truth" mode. No commentaries, just news. No editing the message to promote their own agenda. 7. All four letter words and obscenities would totally disappear from our language, from our music, from books, TV and movies. Proper speaking of the American language would become a priority in all classes and cultures and a source of pride in all people. 8. Every politician and their families would have to obey every law passed and be governed by everything they foist on the American people. 9. No more pork barrel projects. Total honesty and integrity in the government. Every single senator and representative in our nation's capitol and every state legislature would have only America's benefit in mind. No greed. No power seeking. Just serve the people who elected them and make decisions based on what is best for the people, the state and our country. No hidden agendas. 10. And in my perfect world, all crime and criminal activity would be abolished because everyone acknowledged our Savior and Redeemer and tried to be like Him. There are lots more things on my list, but if we could magically implement those, maybe the rest of the list would take care of itself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Difficult Writing

One of the tasks I have at work today is to write a press release about the support being offered to the charity I work for by another, larger and much richer, charity. I have to announce this with major fanfare about how delighted we are to be working with them, what exciting new opportunities it offers for both charities as well as those despairing souls we aid, and generally proclaim a new age of harmony, happiness, rainbows and fluffy bunnies. But ... I'm not allowed to actually explain what it is they are doing to help us. Now that's going to be a challenge.

A few months ago I was asked to write a letter of support from a group of friends to another friend who had been wrongly accused of a crime. That wasn't easy either. In fact, I think I gave up in the end and we all expressed our support verbally instead. Over an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, as I remember.

In my writing group a couple of months ago we did an exercise where we had to describe in detail a scene, but from the perspective of a blind person. The photograph I was asked to describe was of St. Pancras Station in the Victorian age. We had five minutes. Here's my effort:

"I judged it to be almost midday by the radiant warmth of the sun which beat heavily upon my shoulders through the station’s famous glass roof. About me was the gentle hum of many muted conversations, the swishing of silken skirts and the tapping of canes and umbrellas. The sounds, like the sun, were amplified by the cavernous space. The smell of hot steam mixed with coal dust was thick enough almost to mask the rich musky odour of the leather trunks waiting to be loaded, and from it I estimated that at least four trains impatiently awaited those cases and passengers."

For most writers, writing comes fairly easily, even naturally. But to be a really great writer, you need to exercise your writing muscles. That means relishing challenges that come your way; offering to write a Best Man speech for a friend, or taking the opportunity to put pen to paper and remonstrate with a child's teacher over a grade, or writing to a missionary who's struggling in the field. It's all good practice.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Old Friends

Several years ago (if I said how many, it would be depressing), I found myself in a bit of trouble. I walked into the school library with a small stack of books, eager to return them. I was eight years old and absolutely loved to read. Books were my best friends at that tender age. I possessed a shy nature and often retreated into a corner to lose myself inside the pages of a captivating novel.

A product of the "Programmed Reading," phenomenon of the mid-sixties, I found that I could read circles around some of my classmates. Words literally seemed to leap off the page at me, and by the time I was half-way through the second grade, I had managed to read through everything the program had to offer. That was when I was introduced to the school library.

What a wonderful world of discovery--an entire room full of potential new friends! I embraced this opportunity with gusto, much to the librarian's dismay. On the day in question, I gripped the small stack of books in my hands and brought them up to the counter to check them in. The librarian scowled at me, her grey eyes piercing through me as she slid her glasses down her nose for emphasis.

"Young lady, what are you doing?!" she demanded.
Gulping I forced a smile and replied, "Checking in these books."
"But you just checked them out yesterday," she countered.
"I read all of them," I meekly responded.
"There is no way you could have possibly read through all of these books in one day," she continued.
Stunned, I merely stood there, tempted to flee the room that had been a safe haven of delight.
"You are making twice the work for me . . . I know there is no possible way you can be reading through these books this fast. I'm going to call your mother and let her know what you're doing."
I nervously shifted from one foot to the other and quietly said, "Okay."

Picking up the phone from her desk, she asked for my number, then called my mother. This proved to be an interesting conversation. It went something like this:

"Mrs. Jackson, I'm calling to let you know that your daughter, Cheri, has been checking out too many books from our library. She checks them out one day and brings them back the next and I know there's no way she is reading them this fast. She's only in the third grade."
"How well do you know my daughter?" my mother asked.
"She comes into the library every day," the librarian returned with a sniff. "I think I know her pretty well."
"And does she cause any trouble?"
"No . . . well . . . she's pretty quiet . . . but she's making a lot of extra work, pretending to read through all of these books."
"My daughter is reading all of these books. Reading is one of her favorite things to do right now. You can ask her questions about any of those books and she'll be able to answer you in full detail. Now, let me ask you a question--what is your job?"
"I'm the librarian."
"Are you encouraging children to read?"
"Well, yes . . . but in this case . . . "
"In this case you will let my daughter check out as many books as she wants, whenever she wants, or I'll come in and have a chat with the principal."
"There's no need for that," the librarian stammered.
"If you have further questions, talk to Cheri's teacher. She'll explain how fast my daughter reads."

The phone call ended with the librarian promising to never give me a bad time again about the number of books I checked out . . . and she never did cause any more trouble for me.

Shortly after this, family members caught on that giving me books for my birthday, or holidays like Christmas, was a great idea, and slowly, I began building my own personal library, made up of my favorite friends.

That has continued through the years. I currently possess 7 bookcases that are somewhat filled with favorite books. I say, "somewhat," because a great tragedy took place this past year. In March, our basement flooded. This was a very bad thing for many reasons, and our family lost a lot of treasures. 

For Mother's Day, the year before, my sons had put together a special library for me in one corner of our basement. It was filled with my collection of precious books. The flood claimed over 121 of these items--something that nearly broke my heart. Comments from well-meaning family and friends didn't help.

"Well, you've read all of those books--maybe you need to get some new ones to replace them."

People who love books like I do, understand that they are treasured friends. If a book is good enough, I love reading it over and over again.

I'm currently doing my best to restore the books that were lost. Thanks heavens for online sites like,  and where one can locate books that are out of print or hard to find. The other day, my husband and I stumbled onto a huge going-out-of-business sale by a bookstore in a nearby town. While I'm saddened that this store is closing its doors, (something that happens far too often these days) I was thrilled to find several books by one of my favorite authors who were just waiting for a good home.

This past week several copies of my lost tomes have arrived via our faithful mail carriers. I cannot put into words how it feels to unwrap them, and place them back on the shelf where they belong. To me, these books are friends. They have taken me to places I may never see in person, and some of them have taught me important lessons. Others provided a much-needed escape when life threw curve-balls. Reference books have answered questions, fantasies have filled my heart with color. Mysteries have intrigued me. So on and so forth. Each book has touched me in some way and truly is a treasured friend.

I'm more careful now about how I'm putting my library back together-- I'm not sure any books will go on the lower shelves of the new bookcases. Though we have taken measures to ensure that this type of tragic loss will never happen again, it still fills my heart with dread to think about future glitches. And I'm finding that these books are even more precious than before, items I will never take for granted again. I guess it's really true that we sometimes have to lose what we love to realize just how much they really mean.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


It used to be that the most common warnings concerning the Fourth of July dealt with drinking and driving.  I still remember the popular jingle from my teenage years, If you go forth with a fifth on the Fourth, you might not go forth on the fifth."  This year is different.  This year it's "Don't be stupid; skip the fireworks and target shooting."  They're both good advice.  I certainly hope we don't have any drunks or anyone else who is a bit careless setting off fireworks to celebrate the holiday. 

I enjoyed fireworks when I was a kid.  The city fathers put on a grand display every Fourth and people came from miles around to watch.  In recent years they've become so common place, it's hard to get excited about them as they commemorate everything from ball games to concerts and the neighborhood kids set them off just because they can. Last year they became a public nuisance as they burst in all their noisy, screeching brilliance for a whole month.  So far this year has been quieter for which I'm grateful. I'm not opposed to a well run fireworks display with safeguards in place, but I would prefer fireworks weren't set off in neighborhoods or near the dry fields and mountainsides.  I can do without the noise and even more important, we can all do without any more wild fires.

The Fourth isn't just about fireworks.  It's a day to fly the flag, remember those who made our country possible, those who gave their lives for it, and those who sacrificed years of their lives and long separations from their loved ones to ensure that our liberty continue.  It's a salute to the many Americans who make their way to the ballot box every election, those who interrupt their lives to serve on juries, those who kneel to thank God for this land, and to the everyday Americans who pay taxes, support those in need, and all those who value liberty.  This year too, it's a day to thank the fire fighters who are giving so much to save homes and lives.

And let's not forget the Fourth is a traditional day for families to get together, break out the grill and the potato salad, eat ice cream, and strengthen family ties.  There are parades to watch, concerts, and patriotic speeches.  It's a birthday!  We should enjoy it, but with this year's super dry conditions, let's use some common sense too.