Thursday, January 31, 2013


There's a lot of hate and meanness in the world, a lot of hurt and disappointment, but the past few days I've found myself thinking of just the opposite.  There is a lot of goodness and kindness in this world too.  Perhaps it was the excellent lesson on service taught in my ward's Relief Society last Sunday that got me thinking along these lines.  Maybe it was being able to at last begin returning to the temple. Or it might have been a kindness shown a friend of mine during this sloppy stormy weather this week that added to my thoughts. A mother of three small children, she found she needed to make a trip to the grocery store.  When she got there she couldn't find a parking spot anywhere near the building.  Dragging three small children through a foot of slush is no fun! When she finally spotted a parking spot near the building, she discovered another shopper had found it first and was ready to pull into it.  She pulled back and the other driver motioned for her to roll down her window.  Instead of the rude comment she probably expected, the other driver said it looked like my friend needed the spot more than she did so she'd just block the spot so no one else could get it while my friend circled around and came back to where she could pull into it.  

Like everyone else I've been the recipient of kindness and service.  I've had doors slammed in my face too--literally.  There was a time when I left a doctor's office carrying two crying two-year-olds, a diaper bag, and my purse.  On reaching the outside door and discovering it didn't have a push door opener, I was relieved to see a man walk toward us, and being a bit on the naive side, I expected he would open the door for me.  He opened it alright, but slammed it behind him, sending me and my babies sprawling.  

Women tend to think of service as providing meals for those who are sick or who have just given birth.  I only know of one occasion when a meal wasn't appreciated.  I remember as a small child accompanying my mother to a neighbor's house when she went to deliver a meal she'd prepared for the family whose mother had just been hospitalized.  The children, who were old enough to have better manners, informed my mother they didn't like the main course she'd prepared and that they didn't like spice cake; she should have made chocolate cake for them.  That aside, sharing a meal is a wonderful act of service, but there are other ways to provide kindness to friends, family, or neighbors.  Right now I'm aware of a woman who is driving a neighbor's children to school each day so their mother can stay at the hospital with their critically ill baby sister.  There are people who shovel or snow blow neighbor's walks and driveways.  I've often taken books to people who were incapacitated.  I once had a neighbor who routinely picked up an extra gallon of milk when she went shopping to give to someone who might need it.  The gift of an hour or two of time to free a caregiver to shop or take a breather is a huge gift. The small courtesies of a smile or pleasant word should not be underestimated. 

When my daughter and her husband adopted their first baby, the proceedings required that she take the baby to Utah until the adoption was formalized.  Though Utah is her home state and where the application originated, she was living on a military base in Washington and her husband was in Iraq.  She hadn't expected to be unable to return to her base home and had left their dog in the care of a neighbor.  A dear friend offered to drive to Washington to get the dog for her.  I consider that truly going the second mile. 

During the past five months I've been the recipient of many large and small services and I appreciate each one, so thank you to some very special people.  There will continue to be a lot of things wrong in our society and I don't expect to see a sudden end to cruelty, spitefulness, and plain meanness, but I am convinced that if some of us work to hush the strident tones of our voices, look for opportunities to serve, and applaud the kind acts of others we'll create a world much closer to the one we want to live in.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Inconsistency - a guest blog by my granddaughter, Rachel Abramson

My middle daughter, Nicole, loved our Air Force life style, moving all over the country and discovering new cultures, places and people. She married a man who received his commission in the Air Force shortly after their marriage so she could continue that life style. Her daughter, Rachel, in her second year at SUU (under full scholarship I might brag) writes about her own experiences with that: Inconsistency "Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead." ~ Aldous Huxley Those of you who know me well will understand what I mean when I say that I have not always had a lot of consistency in my life. Those of you who don't know me as well...I'm going to tell you what I mean. From the time I was born, I never lived in one house more than 3 years. I went to 10 schools between kindergarten and my sophomore year of high school. I've lived in 6 different states, and visited 42 or so. When I was a child, all I longed for, over anything else, was to have something consistent in my life. To keep my friends, to not change schools, to not miss out on opportunities because I had to leave. I hated moving, I hated starting over, and I was terrified of change. It took me nearly 18 years to realize that the most important things in my life were consistent. My family was always there with me. They always loved me, they always supported me, and they were my greatest friends through all the crazy times. I consistently attended school and had opportunities to learn and improve myself. My God, my religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always remained an essential consistency in my life. It has afforded me the chance to learn about myself and about the way things work, and I will always be grateful for that consistency in my life. But what I really want to talk about here is not the consistencies that have blessed my life, but the inconsistencies. For example, I may have attended many different schools, but that turned out to be an incredible blessing. Because I have learned so much more from all of my different teachers and their different points of view than I would have if I'd not had the chance to travel. They have influenced my decision to become an educator myself, and have given me invaluable direction and ideas on how to be my best self. Inconsistency has brought me so many friends throughout the course of my life, from all different situations, with all different stories. I have had the chance to watch so many of their lives change from bad to good, from good to better, and even been so blessed to be part of that change. They have all taught me different lessons that really are impossible to learn in school, lessons about honesty, about the courage it takes to be different, as well as the courage it takes to walk with the crowd. I've learned tolerance and acceptance, as well as learned to appreciate every walk of life. The experiences I've had with my friends have taught me what kind of person I want to be, and the traits and skills I should try to avoid. Inconsistency has helped me appreciate the beauty in the everyday. I lived in the very dry desert for 8 years of my life. Moving there from the gorgeous green plains of the Midwest felt like a huge downgrade. But as I learned to accept the new things in my life and the new adventures I would have, I found something new and beautiful every day. Joshua trees only grow in a few places in the whole world, and I lived near these strangely elegant trees. And sunsets in the desert are so beautiful. Then there's all the traveling my family has done over the years. I have collected rocks on a Rhode Island beach, and body surfed in the waters off the California coast. Each place I have been in this incredible country has its own unique and amazing beauty. Inconsistency has taught me to seize the day, to make the most of the time that I have, and to not waste time regretting things once they've been resolved. We're each only given one life to live, and I'm not going to waste a moment of it being afraid or worrying about getting hurt. I'm going to jump in with both feet and scrape my knees on the way. And if you'll let me, I'll grab you by the hand and bring you with me. What I really am trying to say is that change is terrifying, and really hard, and almost always leaves you a little hurt. But if you can learn to embrace the change, embrace the little inconsistencies, you'll end up with a life full of rich differences, more adventures than you can easily recount, and yes, admittedly, some scars that go along with them. But even scars stop hurting after a while, and each has a wonderful story. Don't be so afraid of the short-term pain that you'll give up the long-term happiness. Be brilliant! Be (in some ways) inconsistent. Be spontaneous. Make this life one worth remembering!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Carry a Torch

What is the main thing that people look for when darkness plagues? The obvious answer would be "light." Light can dispel fear, doubt, and often sorrow. For me, having adequate light spares me from stubbing/breaking toes, tripping over items not easily seen without illumination, and when I'm alone, it keeps the boogeyman away. =)

I'm a "light" person. Not necessary in the weight category, but when it comes to dark times, like the midnight shifts my husband sometimes works, I prefer to have a nightlight blazing in the hallway. It may sound silly, but it comforts me. Though my husband often teases me, this tendency helps me feel like I'm not quite alone.

I suspect that most of us are "light" people. We prefer a comforting glow in the darkness. Perhaps that's why we cheer for those who tend to be torchbearers.

What is a "torchbearer," you may ask? According to an online dictionary, a torchbearer is:
1: One who carries a torch. (I am often amazed by some definitions.)
2. One who imparts knowledge, truth, or inspiration to others. (I prefer definition number two.)

I also did a bit of research regarding the history of torchbearers. As you may have suspected, most of what I found was linked to the Olympic games. Fire, in ancient times, was considered to have sacred qualities. During the first Olympic games, a so-called eternal flame was maintained during the competitions. Today, the Olympic games are heralded by torch-runners who bear the Olympic flame from Greece to wherever the games are held. It's a time-honored tradition that can be inspiring, depending on one's frame of mind.

Here is something to ponder--what does it take to be a torchbearer in today's society? As Jennie stated in her latest post on this blog, we live in a depressed era. The economy, state of the world, acts of violence, tragic events, etc. have created dark moments. There is a great need for torchbearers--those who courageously attempt to carry the light of inspiration, truth, and knowledge. The light they carry will help illuminate darkened corners where discouragement and despair tend to thrive.

It's not easy, being a torchbearer. The current negative trend often squelches flames that otherwise would burn quite brightly. Some are quick to judge and condemn those who dare to carry a positive message. Still, there are brave souls who persist, determined to bear their flame despite this challenge. They endure exhaustion, brutal elements, and taunting as they hold their torches high, intent on passing that light to others.

The torchbearers of our day are to be commended. The light they share will go a long way toward dispersing gloomy moments. They will bring hope to those who have temporarily lost their inner flame. Their example will encourage others to make similar attempts. They are the unsung heroes during a time that honors villains, and though these valiant torchbearers often serve without acclamation, there will come a day when the light they carry will eventually illuminate a darkened world. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


According to a long ago college professor, we're living in an extremely depressing time period. The professor claimed popular fiction and movies say a lot about the mental state of people of any era.  During World War II people turned to comedy because they were depressed and scared, but continued to hope.  He listed several other examples, but the one that stayed with me concerns the paranormal.  If the professor is right, then the upsurge in fantasy, the supernatural, the occult, magic, and mythical creatures in today's books and movies denotes depression and fear without hope. 

I'm not sure why I remembered that old lecture and I'm not sure what was used to back up those premises.  Perhaps it came to mind because the last half dozen books I've read have all had some supernatural element--and these were all books by writers who are active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that is usually pretty conservative and pragmatic.  Usually as far as LDS writers stray into this field is to touch on miracles, angelic manifestations, and glimpses of the afterlife. Let me say up front, most of these books are very well written and carry positive messages that go beyond the supernatural or paranormal.  I enjoyed the stories and admired each author's ability to tell a tale.  However, though it may be just a matter of taste, I've had enough. I'm tired of ghosts, demons, and assorted magical paraphernalia.  Right now I have a strong preference for realistic people doing realistic things whether they do it now, in the past, or in the future.

My personal reading tastes have gone through phases since I was a small child and read every animal story I could find.  In the third grade I was fascinated by fairy tales and mythology. From there I leaped to girl sleuths.  I read all the Tarzan books I could get my hands on and from there explored science fiction.  Westerns came next.  My love affair with historical epics and sagas followed and alternated for years with mystery/detective books.  Romance novels became a quick, easy break from stress.  During all the years I worked as a librarian, I dabbled around with all kinds of books and as a reviewer I read a wide variety of genres.  Though I don't like horror, I can tolerate the horror elements Jeffrey S. Savage and Gregg Luke add to their mystery/suspense novels because they're great writers and spin fascinating yarns.  I find some science fiction novels clever and interesting, but most seem to go on much too long and I lose interest before I finish.  Generally the Young Adult ones are better than the ones aimed at adults, if they don't get too silly.  Overall, I enjoy a broad spectrum of novels.  I'm more interested in well-written than genre, but I get tired of too many books of the same type read consecutively.  Today I cringe at the thought of checking out from the library a dozen or more books of one genre as I once did.  And did I tell you to hold the supernatural?  I've had enough for now of ghosts, demons, and things that go bump in the night.  

That's something I enjoy about today's LDS fiction; there are enough genres and literary works to suit most tastes, phases, or preferences.  There are enough styles, too, to satisfy readers who prefer simple, straight-forward tales to the complicated "most of the story is found between the lines" type of story. There are books with strong LDS themes and ones where a reader would have to search pretty hard to find anything remotely church related.  I can't help laughing when I hear people say they don't read LDS fiction. He/she read so-and-so's book and decided LDS fiction was inferior and not to that person's taste.  I don't care how popular one author may be, his or her books cannot be judged as indicative of all LDS fiction. If a person doesn't read general market romance, he/she will not be impressed with LDS romance. If a person has zero interest in historical novels why would that person expect to enjoy an LDS historical?  Even so, as a person who once overloaded on a single genre, I suggest readers try different types of books from time to time.  It's surprising what one may discover. 

A wise teacher once told me "never get too grown up to believe in fairies."  I've decided he was right.  Each life needs a bit of magic, but for now, hold the ghosts.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Each Life That Touches Ours For Good

Periodically we find ourselves touched in a major way by the example of someone else. These are people who radiate the joy that comes from living a Christ-like life. I recently attended the funeral of a woman who fits this description. One of my husband's cousins, this humble, bubbly lady was a wonderful example to all of us. It was said of her that she never said anything negative about anyone else, and I know this to be true. Louise had a way of edifying others in a quiet, unassuming fashion, typical of those who are true disciples of our beloved Savior.

A year ago, our family attended a funeral for someone else who lived a similar life. One of my great-aunts, Mary was another inspiring example. She loved serving others and was always making a fuss over her neighbors, family members, and total strangers. At her funeral, a story was shared about the time a new neighbor came by for a visit. In a typical fashion, my gentle aunt invited this man into her humble home to share a freshly baked loaf of bread and homemade jam. As she and my uncle sat visiting with this new neighbor, they eventually asked what it was he did for a living. This man had purchased a large ranch in the mountain valley where my aunt and uncle lived, and they had assumed he was a rancher like most in the area. Instead, their new neighbor revealed that he was an actor and had made several movies. My aunt kindly remarked that while she had never heard of any of those movies, she was certain he did a fine job and would succeed in his chosen vocation. Their new neighbor: Richard Gere.

As several stories were shared about my aunt's Christ-like tendencies, one of my sons commented that her example made him want to live a better life. Many of us came away from Louise's funeral feeling the same way.

Funerals for these type of people are often like graduation ceremonies. Though we miss them greatly, there is a feeling of joy that can be sensed through the Spirit. I experienced this sensation the first time during my maternal grandfather's funeral. My Grandpa Sibbett was one of my heroes. He was always doing things for other people, possessed a great sense of humor, and survived numerous adventures in life, including the death of his father when he was in the eight grade. At that time, he quit school to help support his family. A hard worker, my grandfather never lost his zest for life, maintaining a positive attitude regardless of the challenge. This would eventually include the death of one of his sons at the tender age of seven.

I remember going places with my grandfather when I was quite young. People would look at me and smile and ask if I was Glenn Sibbett's granddaughter. When I would nod accordingly, they would tell me what a great man he was--something that made me want to live up to his reputation. That feeling was magnified during his funeral. Though I was sorrowing over his passing, I couldn't ignore the strong feeling of joy that was present as well, an indication that he had truly graduated from this life in a pleasing manner to God.

The inspiring example of these loved ones gives us an indication of what is truly important in this mortal life. Fame and fortune do not matter. Fancy homes and cars mean nothing. When it's all said and done, it comes down to how we treat each other, and the type of service we render throughout our lives.

The lyrics to a well-known hymn have been going through my head this past week. They pretty much sum up what I'm trying to share in today's post:

Each life that touches ours for good reflects thine own great mercy Lord
Thou sendest blessings from above thru words and deeds of those who love.

What greater gift dost thou bestow, what greater goodness can we know
Than Christ-like friends, whose gentle ways, strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

For worthy friends whose lives proclaim devotion to the Savior's name
Who bless our lives with peace and love, we praise thy goodness, Lord above.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tech Daze

Technical toys aren't my thing.  Perhaps it's my generation; I didn't grow up with all the techno stuff that litters our current way of life.  Case in point:  I got a new printer for Christmas and I can't even find the off/on switch and I had to call my son-in-law to figure out where to put the ink cartridges.  Now I've got to find someone to show me where the controls are and how to use them.  Life was simpler when switches were clearly labeled and gizmos came with instruction booklets. Now even if I can find instructions on the internet, I don't know any more than I did without the instructions.  (Where are the good technical writers?  Perhaps they've gone to the same place good copy editors have gone.) 

I always marveled that my dad had experienced so many different stages of transportation. As a boy he rode horses and drove horse teams, as a young man he drove a dog sled team for the Hudson Bay Company, drove tandem spans of mules or horses pulling logs, plowed with oxen, learned to drive a car and experienced the changes in cars and trucks from the early twentieth century though the very early twenty-first century, saw tractors revolutionize from the old hand cranked Farmall to the big GPS controlled tractors of today, he took the train, and he flew in bi-planes, helicopters, and finally a 747.   

During my life I think I've seen almost as many changes in communication as my dad did in transportation. I remember walking beside my sister, carrying a note written by my mother to a neighbor when I was very small.  A few years later I exchanged letters with pen pals. I remember our first telephone (others had telephones long before we did). Once I accompanied my dad to the grain elevator in town.  It was next to the train tracks and I watched as a man in a little building operated the telegraph key.  Radio, television, and now our world is full of telephones that do everything but feed the dog, toys that talk and fly, e-mail, texting, facebook, and dozens of other computer generated communication devices and programs. 

Those first articles I wrote for a farm magazine when I was a child were laboriously printed out by hand.  If I made a mistake, I had to start over.  Free lance articles I wrote later were typed on a typewriter using carbon paper.  Again if I messed up, the page had to be retyped.  As a newspaper reporter I used white out or correction tape.  When deadlines were tight or the operator typing the material into those first early computers, which didn't have screens, was busy elsewhere, I sometimes had to type the stories in directly myself, print them out, and cut and paste in the corrections. My first books involved a lot of trips to the post office as my editor and I mailed changes back and forth.  Today with a push of a button our changes and corrections land on each other's desks.  And my readers can read it on paper or a hand held e-reader. 

I won't argue that all of these advances in technology haven't made many things in our modern world easier and more pleasant.  I miss getting letters, but I love keeping up with friends and family on a daily basis through facebook and email.  I like being able to travel quickly to places which once would have once been nearly impossible or to be there for family emergencies.  My mother was the first woman in sixteen generations of my direct female maternal ancestors to reach her fortieth birthday, that makes me very grateful for medical advances.  Yet with all the good, I find a loss in quiet, reflective moments, personal one-to-one relationships, and instead of gaining more time, we seem to be pushed to tighter, more demanding schedules. 

I relate well to my not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter.  She divides food into two categories, m-m-m-m and k-k-k.  Any object can become a car if it's driven on the piano bench with the proper motor sounds.  Animals are birds (dees), cats (mows), or dogs (panting sound with her tongue sticking out).  Anything shiny or pretty is Ooh.  If she likes you, she blows you kisses or presses her open mouth against your cheek. I  love the way she takes this complicated world and simplifies it into a place that makes sense to her.  I often feel I need to do that.  No matter how fast I run, I can't seem to keep up with technology, but hey, with a little help I found out how to turn my printer on.