Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Whatever happened to Kindness of Strangers?

I don't get it!  What is the point of being mean just because you can?  I don't condone, but at least I understand theft, robbery, and many other deplorable actions where the perpetrator thinks he or she is going to gain something by his/her action.  But what is there to be gained from vandalism, insulting strangers, random shootings, property destruction, hurting someone-you-never-met's feelings, or other mean actions? 

There has been a rash of churches vandalized recently.  Just this weekend someone broke into a Catholic Church in Magna, Utah.  They broke and destroyed valuable statues and art pieces pertinent not only to people of that faith, but an important part of the valley's history.  A short time ago the air conditioner was stolen from a small, poor church.  Several LDS Churches have had windows smashed and fires set inside them.  Fences and buildings are constant targets of ugly graffiti, turning them into eyesores. Bottles and cans are carelessly tossed onto lawns. Young trees are run over or snapped off. How can anyone possibly benefit from this ugly destructiveness?  

It's not just ill-mannered teenagers, but adults too, who yell insults at strangers, including small children, from the safety of their vehicles.  Trolls grab onto every opportunity to find fault and make insulting remarks every time a news story is posted on the internet whether local or national.  Ill-mannered people even post faux ratings and reviews of books, music, or movies on public rating sites.  Some go so far as to make false accusations of a crime. What is wrong with people who derive some kind of pleasure from causing emotional pain to strangers? 

There's plenty of meanness in this world directed against or between political groups, religions, cultures, races, gangs, and varying philosophies.  I've never noticed any of these being resolved by name calling, violence, or destruction.  Have we allowed hate and anger to become so common that cowards now consider vandalism and anonymous attacks to be an acceptable means of convincing themselves they're big and brave?  

I recently read a string of hateful anti-religion remarks following a news piece that actually had nothing to do with religion and the words of a familiar song ran through my mind.  "God is not dead, Nor doth He sleep."  We simply have far too many people who have changed sides, switched their allegiance from God to Satan. Which is sad since we already know who will ultimately win.  It won't be the mean guys!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alaska--A Vast Wonderland

A trip to Alaska has been on my bucket list for many years, and two weeks ago that dream was realized. It is a vast and stunning state. If you plopped Alaska down in the middle of the continental United States, it would be 1/5th the land mass. It is a little over two times the size of Texas, and like 250 times the size of Connecticut. Only 600,000 people call Alaska home, which makes for a ton of space for the moose, bear, caribou, and salmon who live there. It's no wonder that a ton of passionate park rangers, adventurers, and wildlife enthusiast spend their summers in the 50th state. We met rangers like Patty who studied bears, and was thrilled when she'd scout out a group of bears at their favorite fishing hole, or Dillon (the college communications student) who piloted our river rafting boat, or Steve (the New York rock band drop out) who sat by the waters edge and sang folk songs about Alaska to people taking boat tours on the river. Alaska is a place for rugged individuals.

The wilderness vistas of Alaska are so stunning, they literally take your breath away. The picture above is the Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, the state's capitol. A side note: Juneau is the only state capitol you can't drive to. To get to Juneau one must either take a boat or small plane--usually a float plane that lands on the water.

There's a lot of water surrounding Alaska, and in the interior. It's estimated to contain millions of lakes and 100,000 glaciers. And then, of course, there's the vastness of the tundra, and the majesty of the mountains. Denali Mountain (Mt. McKinley) is the tallest peak in North America, and it is a wonder. We happened to be one of the lucky ones to view it on a relatively clear day, standing snow laden against a brilliant blue sky. It is a vision I will never forget. 

We saw spectacular things during our visit to Alaska, we met interesting folks, and ate our share of seafood and salmon, but to me one of the greatest gifts of the holiday was a slowing down--a sense of quiet. I took a much needed breath. I know that when life gets crazy back in my home world, I can close my eyes, walk that mountain trail to Dewey Lake outside of Skagway, and find a little inner peace.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Making the Ethical Decision

by Anna Jones Buttimore

Aristotle defined ethical behaviour as “to do [the right thing] to the right person to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way.” But he admitted that “this is not for everyone, nor is it easy.” (Nichomanchean Ethics II.9)

Ethics has become something of a buzzword of late. We have the option to invest our money with ethical banking schemes, buy ethical food—fair-trade or responsibly sourced—and even dispose of our waste ethically, by composting or recycling. Companies know that they can sell to us by appealing to our personal integrity, and telling us that their particular product or service is the ethical choice. For example, they may plant trees so that they can make the claim to be carbon neutral.

Those of us who like to think that we are “good” people, doing our best to be contributors to our communities and live according to our moral values, naturally like to think that we are people with high standards who make ethical decisions.  We all make day-to-day ethical decisions, however, and these are often not as clear-cut as choosing a fair-trade product over a non fair-trade one. From deciding whether to be honest in telling our spouse that a new item of clothing is not flattering, to telling the cashier that we have been given too much change, each of us must strive daily to balance our own comfort and well-being with our moral values.

Several years ago I bought a laptop computer on eBay. The previous owner had taken out a five-year warranty on it, so when it broke down I took it to a branch of the shop where he had purchased it for repair. I was told that under its terms the warranty was only transferable to the new owner (me) if I had a signed letter from the original owner stating this. I returned home and attempted to contact the original owner but his eBay account had been closed and emails were returned undeliverable. I returned to the shop to explain my predicament. The man behind the desk explained that they had no record of the original buyer’s signature, so there was nothing to stop me writing the letter myself and signing the buyer’s name. In fact, he positively encouraged me to do so. He wanted to fix my laptop, and knew the buyer would have intended the warranty to transfer to the me, but he needed a letter for his records.

I didn't do it, and left the shop with my laptop still broken. I knew that I wanted to be honest more than I wanted a working laptop. I knew that in a few months my Bishop would ask whether I was "honest in [my] dealings with men" and forging a signature was not honest.

A ‘dilemma’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.” The roots can be traced back to Greek, di meaning “twice” and lemma meaning “premise”. Often an ethical choice is not clear-cut; we may find ourselves having to choose between two moral imperatives.

In facing such situations experts suggest that there are steps we can take to make the process easier:

1) Define the dilemma. Identify exactly what choices are before you. It may also help to look back at what led to this situation so that future conflicts of this nature can be avoided.

2) Analyse the consequences of each choice, both positive and negative.

3) Consider the action involved in each choice and how they measure up to your standards of integrity and dignity, regardless of the consequences.

4) Research the situation as much as possible. Gather all relevant information and ask questions.

5) Bring in other people. Ask advice of trusted friends, church leaders and relevant specialists.

6) Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is.

7) Make a decision, and once you’ve decided, don’t dither. Make sure all parties involved are aware of the difficult situation you’ve been placed in, and the reasons for the decision you have made. Carry through, and deal with any consequences as they arise.

As we face daily difficult decisions, may we all recognise and choose the ethical pathway, even when that seems difficult.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miracles Exist--If We So Choose

We live in a time of great technological wonder. There are numerous gadgets and gizmos that make our lives easier . . . and yet in one aspect, more difficult. We are becoming a generation of skeptics, hardened by the belief that we are always entitled to a smooth road, one free of briars and brambles are that are actually part of this life's test.

I will admit, when trials come (something everyone experiences), it is possible to become angry, resentful, and bitter--to believe that heaven has turned its back toward us. When this happens, we sometimes begin to think that miracles no longer exist, especially when life doesn't work out the way we desired. I have learned that prayers are indeed answered (not always in the the way we envision, but answered, nonetheless), and that faith always precedes the miracle. (See Ether 12:12).

Faith is the first principle of the gospel for a very good reason. The belief in things hoped for and not seen (see Ether 12:6) is a fragile gift that can help us cope with the difficult things in life--if we will allow it to grow within our hearts. (See Alma 32: 21; 27-43). Since this life is a test, and most trials are soul-stretching adventures, they become a vehicle that can inspire faith to flourish . . . if we choose. With the gift of agency, it is up to each one of us to decide how we will react to the challenges in our lives. 

In my own life, I have faced a myriad of tests and trials, too many to ever think I've been left on my own to flounder. With each experience, my faith and testimony have grown--I know miracles have transpired and my life has been repeatedly spared as a result. People who know me well, know that I have survived nearly burning off my face, a motorcycle incident that could've left me mangled or dead, a blood clot adventure that should've taken my life in an instant . . . but didn't, my father's suicide death, the numerous perils that often go along with Type 1 diabetes, the joy of a crippling form of rheumatoid arthritis, a semi-truck jack-knifing in front of me on a narrow canyon road--and somehow righting itself at the last possible minute before taking us both down a steep canyon drop-off, and most recently: a heart glitch. (There have been many other trials, but if I listed them all, we'd be here for hours.)

As my children have often stated, I am a walking miracle, proof that marvelous intervention from heaven does exist--if we simply believe. "For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name." (D. & C. 35:8) Here's the key: "But without faith shall not anything be shown forth . . ." (D. & C. 35:11 . . . also, check out D. & C. 63:8-11).

And yet, bad things are allowed to happen, despite tremendous faith and prayer. I believe this is again, part of life's test. What will we do if we don't get the miracle we had hoped for? How will we respond if our loved one is taken away despite everything we did? Or how will we handle it if a wandering family member or friend continues to make poor choices even though we have fasted and prayed that they will find their way?

I don't pretend to understand everything that happens in this life. I've come to realize there are many items I won't comprehend until after this mortal existence is finished. I do know there are many trials that simply test our faith. Will we remain steadfast, even if we're brought to our knees in grief and pain? Will we continue to believe in God, despite the challenges we face? Those are the moments that test our mettle--and if we'll allow it, they can refine us in the way our Father desires. (See 1 Nephi 20:10).

How do I cope when bad things happen? Sometimes I throw myself, and weep and wail and slip into self-pity mode for a bit. ;) None of us are perfect, and we're all very human. We possess the tendency to resent it a lot when challenges arrive in our lives. I believe the true test lies in whether we will choose to rise above these very human emotions to put our trust in the Lord, and bend our will to His, or remain in self pity mode. It's not easy, and let's face it, bending often hurts . . . especially when one is dealing with arthritis. ;) But it's this process that refines our faith, renews hope within, and helps us to gain an eternal perspective of what is truly important.

After I've finished pouting over whatever it is I've been called upon to endure, I tend to fall back on tried and true methods to survive trials. For instance, I have a deep love of the scriptures. There are several that have brought me peace of heart and mind through the years, despite overwhelming inner pain. I have found that same peace inside the walls of the temple. There are days when I wish I could live inside of that sacred edifice--but when I finally emerge, I usually notice that my "armor" (See D. & C. 27:15-18) is in better shape. Each Sunday, as I partake of the sacrament, I feel lightened by the Spirit, another witness that we are never as alone as we sometimes believe we are when facing challenges. I also spend time in beautiful areas that renew my belief that this world was indeed created for us by a loving Father in heaven who wants us to find joy in life, despite difficult struggles. These experiences fill me with a sense of renewal.

The best way to push heartache aside will always be acts of service. Doing something for someone else, even when we're hurting, is a surefire way to feel a heavenly balm. Another key is to express gratitude for the blessings we do enjoy. Each day when I say my personal prayers, I begin by listing the blessings I'm thankful for at that time. This helps me keep in mind that good things are happening, despite the difficulties also taking place.

Push aside the gizmos, the gadgets, the social networking, etc. and get back to the basics. There is a time and season to all things, but we do need moments of peace and quiet to feel the comfort available to us from the Spirit. Also, avoid the tendency to become negative and judgmental. Realize that most people are doing the best that they can during trying circumstances--and reach out to help those who are struggling to keep their heads above water.

Again, we live in a remarkable world of technology. But it's like anything else--we need to establish a balance. Use these gizmos and gadgets to lift people up, to share positive beliefs, and don't allow them to block the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that help us to know that miracles are still very much a part of our lives, if we so choose.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


It was all because of toothpaste!  Five children under the age of twelve meant toothpaste smears on the sink, on the towels, down the front of shirts, and even on the floor.  That's when I got the brilliant idea to put away the toothpaste and use tooth powder instead.  I'm not sure why I thought that would be less messy.

The day I brought a tin of tooth powder home, my curious four-year-old promptly removed the lid and stuck her finger inside the can, presumably to taste the powder.  That's when disaster struck.  She couldn't get her finger back out of the tiny opening.  I tried all the usual methods for a stuck ring; soap, ice, lotion.  Nothing worked and by that time her finger was bleeding where the can had cut a deep groove around her poor little finger. 

We lived less than a block from the fire station, and being a reporter, I knew most of the firemen at the nearby station.  Leaving my oldest daughter to watch the other kids, I dashed to the fire station with my bleeding little girl.  The men were sympathetic and kind to my daughter as they tried the same methods that had failed for me.  Finally a paramedic said, "We'll have to cut it off."  He explained that he'd have to use the jaws of life, the same tool used to rip open cars to extract accident victims and though the tool is large and scary looking it would work fine.

My child stood still and didn't cry, though pale and wide eyed, while the firemen cut away the can.  "There!  All done. I'll just put a band-aid on your finger and it will be just fine." 

She looked up at him and in a trembling voice said, "But my finger is still there." 

Both the paramedic and I had tears in our eyes as we realized my little daughter had thought he was going to cut off her finger instead of the can. I was overwhelmed by her courage, but I also learned a valuable lesson about using pronouns. Be very sure it is clear to the reader or listener what the antecedent to the pronoun is.   

I've read a number of books lately that have left me confused just the way my child had been confused over whether the author like the paramedic meant for it to stand for the can or the finger.  This problem pops up a lot on face book and it would be helpful if we all were more careful in the quick comments we make there, but let's take extra care in what we write for publication.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Oh, Dear! What Can The Matter Be!

That little song is going through my head: "Oh, Dear, What Can The Matter Be! Dear, Dear, What Can The Matter Be...and you know the rest! I've missed my blog the last two turns. What can the matter be?? I've been out and about each Friday it has been my turn to blog and then way too busy catching up. Can it be possible that I have missed every opportunity since the end of June? Yes, I checked my calendar. But just to bring you up to date on what I have been doing and lay my excuses at your feet, here is a run down on my activities. The 27th and 28th of June I had grand kids who were up at 5:00 wanting to start their day with Gramma. What fun we had swimming, shopping, going to Chuck E. Cheese, making fruit pizza, then swimming again. Love it when they come, love it when they go home! Saturday Glenn put the top down on his little blue Mazda Miata and we drove to the coast to walk on the beach and have lunch in Ventura, then did some exploring on the way home at the little town of Piru. On Friday the 12th of July, our 55th anniversary, we were in the depths of King's Canyon National Park exploring the river and meadows and canyons. So beautiful!!
Again, we put the top down on the car and enjoyed gazing up at those towering mountains thousands of feet above us. I do believe King's Canyon is every bit as spectacular and beautiful as Yosemite. The giant redwoods and sequoias in Sequoia National Park were amazing! And it was delightfully in the shade of those giants.
Friday we drove out of the parks (had been there a couple of days) and down to Fresno where we explored the Forestiere Underground Caverns excavated for about 40 years by a Sicilian immigrant who wanted to grow orange trees. Incredible!
Then on Saturday we drove to Cambria and Moonstone Beach, stopping on the way to explore Mission San Miguel. One of my buckets list items is to photograph each of the 21 missions and make a beautiful Shutterfly book of them. I only have a few left to complete my mission!
Spent Saturday afternoon exploring Cambria and walking on the beach, enjoying fish and chips within the sound of the ocean.
Unfortunately, we both had Church assignments so left at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning to be at Church. But what a fun anniversary we had - from the High Sierras to the California Coast! My next assignment was July 26 and on that date we were in Cedar City enjoying the Shakespeare Festival with our friends - we meet every year and see some shows. This year we enjoyed Love's Labor Lost, The Tempest, Peter and the Starcatchers and Cole Porter's Anything Goes. I highly recommend Anything Goes and The Tempest. I was disappointed in Peter - thinking it would be as delightful as the Disney children's book about how Peter Pan became....Peter Pan. But it was full of innuendos and uncomfortable stuff instead of just being wonderful. It was a little hard hearing the women's voices in Love's Labor Lost, though it is a fun story. We did drive up to Cedar Breaks National Monument - spectacular! The wildflowers were still in bloom. what a lovely drive.
So there, dear friends, are my excuses. I'll try to be more faithful in the future in fulfilling my commitments, but I have to tell you, I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement! Life doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Little Things I'm Grateful For

So, we all know that the internet is wonderful and we couldn't live without our smartphones, but I've been thinking about some other modern inventions--little things--that I wonder how I lived without.

Shuffle. Do you remember when you played a tape, LP or CD, and the songs were always in the same
order? After a while you got to anticipate and expect the next song along, and if there was one you didn't like you had to wind it forward, lift the needle or skip it. Well, I love the shuffle feature because now I only have to have songs on my iPod that I actually like, and I never know what's up next.

Cordless phones. Not just mobile phones, but any phone which isn't attached to the wall or its base unit with a curly cord. Any phone which doesn't require you to stand in exactly the same place while you have a conversation, often the hallway or lounge where people can listen to everything you say. I appreciate being able to chat to a friend while searching for a child's shoes, or stirring soup in the kitchen.

Sky Plus / Tivo. Essentially, any system which allows you to record TV and watch it later, ideally without any complicated programming. I can't begin to tell you how much this has revolutionised my life. Remember when someone would invite you to something which was on a Wednesday night and you'd have to say No because Dallas was on? Now I can't remember the last time I watched something live - in fact, I'm not entirely sure when all these programmes are actually shown, they just magically appear in my menu. All our favourite shows are series-linked, and we watch them whenever we like. I just watched the whole of season 1 of Revolution over the course of a couple of weeks. Oh, and with no adverts. I'm so used to winding past them that I don't think I've actually sat through a commercial in a year or more.

What modern inventions are you grateful for?