Christmas Love

I have a collection of copies of this tender love story. I read it every Christmas and melt all over again, every time. It should be standard issue for all newly (or old-ly) wed couples--it's the perfect portrayal of family love in it's purest from.


Your Prayers, Please.

This is my beloved friend Sandy.
She has been at my side through
triumph and tragedy,
laughter and tears.
Her son Nate is fighting cancer
and is undergoing surgery today.
He has a beautiful little family who love and need him,
and I'm afraid he's going to need a miracle
if he's going to be able to stay around to raise them.
Will you help us pray for one?


So much to be thankful for.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.


New Life

Gavin David Bruce Norton

Born on the anniversary of his
Great Grandma Patricia's death,
and named after his Uncle Gavin and Great Grandpa Bruce,
this little guy has already stolen every heart in sight.

Not long after his birth, Lincoln and I walked
out to see Uncle Gavin's pine,
the one he planted
only a few days before his death.
It has recently sprouted a new
little sapling. I imagine it comes in honor of this new life just begun.
See how the larger tree lovingly bends to hover over it's little charge.
My life is swollen with miracles.



I met a little boy in the San Diego airport on Monday. He stood about the height of a five-year-old, but his face looked to be maybe eight or nine. He walked with crutches. The for-life kind of crutches with the metal rings that wrapped around his forearms for extra support. Walking down the concourse was a lot of work for him, but it was clear that walking had always been a lot of work for him. No big deal. But certainly more work than for everyone around him. As Greg and I ordered our breakfast at the juice bar, his little family turned up again there in the crowd, and in the crush and bustle of the morning rush for an airport breakfast, the little boy balancing on crutches got jostled and fell to the floor. I imagined that this wasn't new for him, it probably happens a lot. I found myself imagining falls on the playground or in the lunchroom at school, and the mother's heart in me pounded as I watched today's clattering tumble to the hard tile and then his patient struggle to get himself back on his feet again. I gave him and his mom a minute to get straightened around and walked over to them.
"I want you to know something." I looked him right in the eyes, not exactly sure what I was going to say next, but wanting to express this emotion rising in my heart. I had to fight to make sure I didn't tear up and embarrass him. Finally, the feeling identified itself and I went on. "I want you to know that you give me courage." I had to pause again. "In fact, I think you give lots of people courage. Every single day. I think it's important for you to know that who you are, and the courageous way you handle the challenges in your world, gives me, and gives others, the courage to handle the hard things in our lives. I think this makes you a hero, and I want to thank you for that."
He and his mom exchanged a quick glance and she whispered to him, "Do you want me to show her?" He nodded enthusiastically, and Mom unzipped his backpack and slid out a small toy dog.
"It's a German shepherd!" he told me, his face bright and smiling.
"Do you want to tell her his name?" his mom asked. He nodded again.
"Courage," he said. "My dog's name is Courage."

I share this story because I know there are many of you who read my blog who live your lives with this little boy's kind of courage. This week marked eight months since my sweet sister-in-law lost her best friend and husband, my brother Bart. I know how hard it is for her to carry on each day without Bart's warm sunshine in her world, but she's doing it, and she's doing it with great determination and a lot of courageous smiles. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the death of my friend Shelly's precious mom. Patricia Kay Bickmore Christensen was a strong force behind everything bright and beautiful in so many people's worlds and I know Shelly must miss her keenly, but there is never a phone call to or from Shelly that won't leave you feeling happy and grateful to be alive. Another girlfriend lost her husband last year and then discovered that their entire retirement had evaporated in the Bernie Madolf scandal. Among you are mothers who have lost their children. Sisters who have lost beloved brothers. You all march on each day, doing good, blessing lives, being courageous in your own needed ways. I want you all to know that you give me courage. I think it's important for you to know that who you are, and the courageous way you are handling the challenges in your worlds, gives me, and gives others, the courage to handle the hard things in our lives. I want you all to remember that you are heroes. And I want to thank you for that.


Looking forward to a great weekend.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to coyote howls and had to get up and look for kitty; make sure she was safely inside. Of course she was. But just in case that wasn't enough to wake me up for the day--I stumbled downstairs to the stench of yet another sewage ejection pump problem. It's a brand new system, for heaven's sake. It turns out the main line (this is a large, 3-inch pipe, friends) had vibrated itself loose somehow. So, I'm down there in my robe and flip flops (rubber souls supremely important at this point) trying to jimmy the line back into place when Greg gets up and flushes the toilet three stories above me. Keep in mind here that a shower isn't an option at this point. I'll spare you more detail.
But I do plan to have a great weekend. 2008 taxes are finally finished. The virus from Hades has abated. I'm not off to London after all, which is good news. The sun is shining, the mountains are vibrant with color, and we're off to spend time with baby Ireland and her big brother Cole. I'm think I'm about due for loving me up some grand babies. It'll be good medicine.
Oh, and yes, the plumber has already come. And conquered. And so shall I.


Angels are aware.

I'm sorry. I know after two years people really expect you to just get on with it, but let me tell you something about grief. It is absolutely unpredictable. It's a twisting, dipping, winding, rolling road that goes through forests and valleys and over hills and through dark tunnels and you honestly never know what's around that next bend. I'll be sailing along a nice, easy straight-a-way, thinking that maybe life is going to start getting a little easier, a little more joyful, maybe even a little normal again when suddenly, out of the blue, I'll hit a huge sink-hole and darned if I don't just drop straight down into it and smash myself up all over again.
Last weekend I got hit by a perfect storm, a trifecta of flu, jet-lag and the longing for having the kids gathered near for General Conference as a family, and thwack! I was suddenly under the dank, dismal gloom of aching for my boy again--as dark a gloom as in those early weeks after his death. But here's the thing. Somehow (well, I do know how: prayer is a very good thing) heaven heard my anguish and through a series of seemingly unrelated events, which began way last July, I received some email that brought me buckets of tears and then relief and smiles. So, here--because angels should be acknowledged--are the most recent emails from that string:
On Oct 6, 2009, at 4:03 PM, [R.A.] wrote:
Hi Annie, I'm glad the post got to you. I've been wanting to write something for a while. Cluttered in between bills and old homework from college dorm...and now my apartment...are all my failed attempts. Gavin, L___, and I were all Sinagua's, but then the guys and girls walked separate. We talked the entire ride up, there was a pouting young walker in the back whom I don't quite remember. Gavin did try to cheer him up. After that he talked to Laura and I and told me the mountains were "weak sauce" and that the mountains we were seeing were small. Gavin was cool. I think of him from time to time, when I hike, but especially when I see bright orange powdered cheese. I just finished eating a dinner of lentils & mac & cheese. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so excited to see anything in my life. He was so excited and talked about all the good things that you could make with it. He told Laura and I you could make cheese go farther by adding the powdered milk. He was a great person, so cool. I looked up to him instantly. You can write to me anytime you want. [R.A]
On Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 6:19 PM, Annie Link <annielink@mac.com> wrote:
Thanks Renee,
This made me smile. I still remember how excited he was to cook for his dad and I when we went out to meet him on the trail the first time he walked. He really got into the food and was actually a good cook. His pizza was excellent. He made great ash cakes, too. (Hearing about lentils and mac and cheese made me smile too. I still have his black cooking/eating cup.)
It sounds just like him to have tried to cheer up the young walker. He was always, all about everyone else's happiness. In Hawaii, on Sundays, he used to gather up homeless guys on the beach and make sure they got a good meal and got to go to church if they wanted to. he'd drive them to wherever their specific religion met. just wanted to make sure they knew that someone cared. he was worried about many of them because he felt like they had mental handicaps and really didn't have any other options but homelessness. He was easy to look up to. He had such an honest, good heart. He sincerely loved people. All people.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your memories. I think of him whenever I hike, too. I'll bet he's found some great hikes in heaven. Wish I could share them with him.
I hope you're doing well in your world. That you love the people in your life and are having happy times. Thanks again for writing.
It's crazy how much it helps.
Hi again Annie, I wanted to mention this. You talk about him loving everyone, its very true. I didn't know that about him and all the good work he did Hawii...but I could totally see it being true. Anyway, out of all the people he loved you most of all. He told Laura and I about the phone call he made as a YW. He hiked and hiked just to find a phone. He wanted to let you know he was ok, make sure you were ok and to tell you that he loved you. I didn't really appreciate this until I was on the trail. At best he didn't have much to eat, he didn't have great supplies, he probably had icky water. And it was far. According to trail lore he walked 50 miles. I'm sure it gets farther and farther every year. He wanted to be in that place again. Not 50 miles off trail, but close to you. I think thats part of the reason I've remember him so often. I'm sure you already know that...I'm sure you've heard the story a million times. But I think he's still the only one who's ever done that. It is a story for legends, told around the campfire, the hearts of the young walkers, and Sinagua, turned to home, wishing they could be so brave. Perhaps they don't know his name, but the story is told and told....and as long as their's Anasazi, it will be told forever. [R.A]

So, there you have it. All of you who wonder how in the world you could ever possibly offer comfort to someone who's grieving:
It's really quite simple after all. Just follow those quiet promptings and do whatever your heart whispers to do.
And even if all you can come up with to talk about is lentils and dried cheese, believe me, it will be enough.


And now for some happy thoughts.

I don't know this little angel's name.
I learned later that it was her 7th birthday--
an auspicious birthday in Japan--
which is why she is wearing her kimono.
Can you believe my good fortune?

To immunize or not to immunize?

I have been sick now for two weeks. I'd consider myself to be in excellent condition--6 days a week of strenuous aerobic work-outs, yoga and weights. But with this H1N1, there have been nights when I had such a hard time breathing I wondered if I should have Greg take me to the ER. If you decide to not immunize, please, make sure you do everything within your power to keep your kids healthy this flu season. This really is a scary virus.


Just when I needed it. I always need it.

From: Annie Link <annielink@mac.com>
Date: October 6, 2009 3:13:21 PM MDT
To: [anonymous]
Cc: Annie Link <annielink@mac.com>
Subject: Thank you

Dear _____,

Yesterday, Sean from Anasazi forwarded me a copy of your Facebook post about Gavin. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me. There aren't words for how much I miss him and just to hear someone even mention his name is like cool water to my thirsty, aching heart. Thank you for taking the time to share your memories. Thank you so much. So much. So much.

As good as he was. That's how much we miss him.


Gavin's Mom
Hi Anasazi,

I'm _____. I walked on the trail in May/June of 2007.

Another June has come and gone...infact by this point most of July has.

I still remember Gavin. He was a fellow Sinagua walker. At the time the guys and girl Sinagua still walked separate, but Gavin rode on the transport with me and Lara and we saw him on the trail when we stopped to camp. Nearing the end we didn't see him anymore. The Wednesday before we left the trail Jamie told us that Gavin had died. And the dinner we all had wasn't completely happy beucase the three of us had planned to all eat together...in fact Gavin promised us becuase we were both having doubts and I was terrified of scorpions. He kept us excited.

For two years I have written letters to Gavin's parents to let them know all I rememeber about him. But I've never been able to send them. They all sounded so stupid. Mostly it was all the things I remembered. He was so glad he could pack his little Bible and he was really nice about mine being different and didn't say anything mean. He had plenty of stories and jokes. He knew all about the rocks and trees and all the funny Arizona stuff that I had no idea about. (I thought I'd been transported to Mars) I remember how much he loved trail food, especially the neon yellow cheese. He was SO excited to get that...as if someone gave him pure gold to eat. He knew so much about Anasazi and the trail. He wanted to make himself better so much.

And he really, really loved his mom. He said hiking to the phone was one of his proudest moments. I was amazed that he'd walk so far just to tell her that. He wasn't content with a letter, and there were times on the trail I wished I could had that bravery. On the trail, after he told the story, I realized the magnitude of what he did...of how far he walked, what he carried and risked. It still blows me away. He was coming back to Anasazi so he could find that passion again.

I still think of him a lot. I haven't forgotten him and hope I never will.

So if you could please forward this to his parents somehow I'd appreciate it.


A Japanese Garden

The New Otani Hotel in Tokyo is famous for it's 500-year-old Japanese Garden. This is the view from the hotel's coffee shop. I'm not sure how many acres the garden covers, but it meanders magically through pines, Japanese maples and bamboo groves to tiny pools and hushed enclaves guarding hidden statues and quiet meditation benches. Loving hands have tended here for centuries. There are ancient, miniature bonsai gardens tucked carefully within the larger garden, sparkling koi ponds and large and small waterfalls. There is even a tiny mahogany paneled chapel and a rustic, seemingly secret Japanese tea house.On the last day of our trip, a Sunday, I had a little time to wander in the garden before our departure. A local woman had set herself up to sketch the tea house while I attempted to capture the garden with my camera. (Notice her white gloves and the careful, cotton sleeve guards.) If you'll drop back by later this week (and I don't die from this H1N1) I'll treat you to what this beautiful garden gave me next. It's almost too good to imagine. Don't even try. Just check back a little later.


Tokyo Manhole Covers

I was fascinated with all the beautiful man hole covers on the streets of Tokyo. Who would have imagined I would find this many treasures looking down?
(I think my favorite is the last one.
Be sure to click on it to enlarge--
those are dragon flies!)


Felt Tip Sketch - Gavin Link, 2003

General conference weekend with a beautiful full moon, and I found myself missing Gavin a lot more than usual. We always made this weekend a time to gather, just the four of us, so there are a lot of poignant memories.


I take the Combo.

Greg's and my date night forever favorite is going to a movie. Tonight, we're going to see 500 Days of Summer. I can't wait. It looks like just my cup of tea.
I'll let you know what we think. But no matter what, we're going to have the best date ever. We always do.  Because we really like movies, we really like popcorn, and we REALLY like each other.  It's an unbeatable combo.


Heart burn?

From National Geographic, Photo of the Day:

This is a Cuban tree frog on a tree in my backyard in southern Florida. How and why he ate this light is a mystery. It should be noted that at the time I was taking this photo, I thought this frog was dead, having cooked himself from the inside. I'm happy to say I was wrong. After a few shots he adjusted his position. So after I was finished shooting him, I pulled the light out of his mouth and he was fine. Actually, I might be crazy but I don't think he was very happy when I took his light away.
(Photograph and story by James Snyder)

Oh!  Was I ever relieved to discover that this story had a happy ending.  Up to that point, I felt so ambivalent about how much I was loving the shot!


And now for something completely different.

Jerry Balisok disappered in 1978, facing a failing motorcycle business and thirteen counts of forgery. For about six months after that his mother faced having to deal with with the aftermath of his misdeeds. In the meantime, the police and FBI searched for her son. One day, Mrs. Balisok picked up a copy of LIFE magazine whose cover shot was a picture of the dead cult members from Jonestown. Among the dead, she believed she saw her son and his spouse. She contacted the FBI and the media for assistance, and finally she went to where the remains had been returned to the US for identification. (*By the time the bodies were recovered from Jonestown the process of identification was extremely difficult.) The charges against Balisok were dropped. Mrs. Balisok passed away in 1983. In 1990, a man by the name of 'Ricky A. Wetta' was arrested for attempted murder. A check of his fingerprints revealed he was actually Jerry Bibb Balisok! According to the cemetery, no one was ever buried in the grave, because positive ID could not be made on the body. This is why the stone reads "Buried in Oakland, CA." His mother had the stone placed out of frustration because she believed the Government would not let her have the body of her 'son.' She went to her own grave believing her son had died in Jonestown. Jerry is currently serving a prison sentence in Washington. Damn the State Department? Damn Jerry Bib Balisok for what he did to his poor mother!


A simple request

The left hand side of the back window of this SUV had the familiar little decal family: a row of stick figures lined up along side each other, starting with Mom and Dad and descending in size down, down, down to a little stick baby. I always smile at these. I like to imagine what it would have been like to have been part of such a huge brood. All the noise and chaos and teasing and loving. I really yearned for that as a child. But on Friday afternoon in the sweltering parking lot on the east side of University Mall, what really struck my heart and imagination was the worry, heartache and struggle that this family must be going through right now. It must be pretty serious, because they are asking everyone and anyone who might see their car window to "Pray for Jaquell." Of course I don't know who Jacquell is, nor do I have any clues why she needs our prayers, but it's obviously serious enough that the grown-ups in her life are asking for our petitions in her behalf. So, I've been praying for Jaquell, and all those other little stick people who love her and are also worrying about, loving and praying for her. I hope you'll join us.



Several water features line the pathways as you make your way down to the creek.

The wide, rocky creek is lined with huge cottonwood trees which allow just enough sunlight to filter through and splash onto the red flagstone patio.
The creek cools the summer air and sparkles in the afternoon sun.
 And when the waiter comes to refresh your soda, he brings it in a little silver pitcher and pours it for you, right there at your table . . .  
Everywhere you look, you find loving attention to detail.
This beautiful little outdoor restaurant, set right on Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire world.  No matter how hot the Arizona sun might be, when you walk down the winding paths into the trees that line the creek, it's always cool and peaceful.   Last year we were here in June and ate and laughed while we watched several families of baby ducklings splash around in the water.  This year, those babies were bigger and kept us entertained as they'd float past our table and down the creek for about 50 yards or so and then hurry to fly back up stream, skimming the water as they went, to start all over again.  
I'm not sure who was having more fun, Greg and I or the ducks.  But I'm pretty sure it was us.  Listen to our order: a crisp, cool salad of field greens with candied walnuts, bleu cheese and fresh pears topped with a light balsamic dressing and grilled filet of wild salmon.   Hand cut french fries tossed in truffle oil and parmesan. . .  And a turkey, bacon, tomato and avocado sandwich with garlic aioli on a fresh home made ciabatta roll.  Oh my.

Even the granite sink in the Men's bathroom was unique and beautiful. (Greg stood watch while I peeked.)

When we move to Arizona and you come to visit, I promise we'll come here for lunch.


How great shall be your joy . . .

Gretchen's daughter Tiffany, and her kids, Gideon and Avery
Elder Imnotsure, Gretchen and Elder Sondereger
Gretchen's sister Suzanne, Gretchen, and Suzanne's honey, Ed

Poor Greg hadn't performed a baptism in over 13 years--
but finally dip #3 turned out to be the charm!  
(We figured Bart and Gav got a good laugh.  It was just their kind of baptism!)
and our beautiful Gretchen who in every way exemplifies Alma's words . . . 
. . . willing to bear one another's burdens, 
that they may be light;
Yea, and . . . willing to mourn with those that mourn . . . 
and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, 
and stand as [a] witness of God at all times 
and in all things, and in all places that [she] may be in . . . 

It was a beautiful day, Grethen.
Thanks so much for sharing it with me.
I will hold the memory forever in my heart!


My Happy Thoughts

The La'ie 4th of July Gang
Waiting for Ireland
Wrapped around his little finger.

A little Gavin in the oven.
Our newest big brother.

Happy thoughts--keep thinkin' happy thoughts.
No sense in letting the mind go anywhere else.
No sense at all.