11.22.2010

For Natalie

There are those who think that I'm strange . . .
. . . but you hold me close and softly say
that you wouldn't have me any other way.

When I'm lost I feel so very found
When you anchor me back down.

(Isn't this just wonderful? Such a beautiful voice. Her sound is so easy.)

10.03.2010

Enchanted




One chilly morning in early May, Greg and I came downstairs to find one of these little guys slumped in the corner of the transom over a family room window. At first I thought he was dead. I felt sick--I had left the window open the night before when I refilled the hummingbird feeder. I ran for a dishtowel and carefully scooped him up. I'd never tried to hold a hummingbird before; I had no clue what to expect. If he was lucky enough to still be alive, I was afraid my picking him up might startle him and I might hurt him. I hoped the towel would let me to hold him safely while I got him outside.

He was practically weightless. Like picking up a whisper, a piece of fog. He was death-still and cold. His tiny head plopped forward onto his chest. I curled my fingers around his little body and nestled him in my palm, praying that my body warmth might revive him. I willed my heat into his tiny body. I breathed warm breath over him. Nothing. He just lay motionless in my hand. But somehow, I knew he wasn't dead. A picture came to my mind - I could see him helplessly fluttering against the windowpane over and over again, frantically trying to get outside, confused at the glass barrier stopping him, then finally, collapsing on the sill, exhausted and empty. He'd been trying to get to the feeder, and he'd burned up his tiny store of energy. He needed food—fuel for body heat and energy.

I sat with him in my hand out on the front step where the early morning sun hits the house. I'd mixed warm sugar water in a teaspoon and, cradling his tiny head carefully between my thumb and forefinger, I gently dipped the tip of his beak into the teaspoon and waited, watching closely for some sign of life. Still, no response. The air warmed and the sun reached our step and eased across his little body. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. He didn't move, but continued to lay quiet in my hand, calmly allowing me to dip his beak into the teaspoon. After five or six more dips, his mouth opened and his little tongue darted out. He'd tasted the nectar! He still made no attempt to move, but let feed him, resting, calm in my hand, bathed in the warm morning sun. The moments were quiet, almost breathless. Reverent. Enchanted.


After a bit, he stood and began to drink by himself. Still, he made no attempt to leave. He fluttered his wings slightly every now and then. Stretched a bit, as though he'd just wakened from a good night's sleep but really didn't need to be anywhere quite yet. He'd look over at me now and again, curious maybe, but not alarmed. We kept on in our peaceful ritual: dipping, watching, waiting, dipping, watching, stretching. It could have been minutes, I'm thinking it was the better part of an hour or more. When he decided he was finally ready, he simply flew up into the river birch next to the path, and sat and considered me for a while longer. Then, he dipped and glided off into the trees and disappeared.

All that summer, whenever the hummers came to the window, peering in impatiently to remind me that the feeder was empty again, I would imagine that one of them was my little buddy from that May morning. I hoped that he remembered, that he felt as connected and as grateful and I did. I still watch for him. Every single spring.

9.25.2010

A Message for My Boys


This post is for Raleigh, Cardon and Lincoln.

The boy in this video reminds me of you boys. He loves the ocean, he loves having fun, he loves his family and he loves Heavenly Father. I am so proud of each of you and all the good decisions you are making every day. I know you're going to grow up to be like Sean. Whether it's surfing, or skateboarding or baseball or soccer--or whatever you choose to be good at--I just know you will always put Heavenly Father first in your lives, because you are AWESOME in EVERY single way. I love you so much! Mwa! Grammie

9.07.2010

Who could ask for anything more?





I was the youngest of three children, with a brother eight years older and another, five years ahead. We were an independent bunch. The boys were up and out, quick as they could grow, and so it seemed to me that I grew up pretty well the only child in a very lonely house. Every single night I would pray for a little brother or sister. It was a reasonable prayer: every other house in the neighborhood was bulging with kids. Certainly it wasn't too much to ask for one-or maybe just two--little brothers or sisters to love?

By the time I was 14, it was clear that this particular prayer wasn't ever going to yield any results. OK, then. I made a few adjustments. Changed my prayers a bit, I'd wait a few years, marry and have my very own huge, glorious brood. I'd have six, maybe even eight, kids. One right after the other. Quick and close. I'd build my own family. A veritable tribe to fill every empty inch of my heart and home.

Then came a ruptured appendix and gangrene, a near death and a new set of prayers.
Infertility. Another plan, another prayer.
A miracle birth! Prayers of gratitude. Prayers of renewed hope.
But then, no more pregnancies. New prayers, another plan.
With each passing year a new reality asked for a new prayer. Every change called for a new look with fresh, hopeful eyes. What is before me now? What are my options? Well. OK.
Now, see--how perfect is this new prayer. How radiant is this new plan.

The years have rolled by and I've whispered so many prayers. Few of them have been answered in the way I had planned. Yet still, my life has been perfect.

I don't think I'm alone here. So few of our very best plans unfold as we'd hoped. Maybe that's just as well. What we pray for and what we need are so often worlds apart.
Can this be true?
What about happiness? What about getting what I want out of my life?
Well. Let's see. I'm getting a lot closer to the end here now.
Have I been happy. Oh yes. Am I happy now? Oh yes. I am.
Have I gotten what I really wanted out of life?
Take a look at these pictures, at all I've been given. Just look at that beautiful daughter and her perfect, joyous tribe. They're mine, too, you know. My very own.
How could I possibly ask for anything more?

Credit, thanks and love to Jonathan Canlass at Jonathan Canlass Photography for these beautiful images.

8.10.2010

You gotta hear this one

A PLANE IS ON ITS WAY TO TORONTO , WHEN A BLONDE IN ECONOMY CLASS GETS UP, MOVES TO THE FIRST CLASS SECTION AND SITS DOWN.

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT WATCHES HER DO THIS, AND ASKS TO SEE HER TICKET.

SHE THEN TELLS THE BLONDE THAT SHE ONLY PAID FOR ECONOMY CLASS, AND SHE WILL HAVE TO SIT IN THE BACK.

THE BLONDE REPLIES, "I'M BLONDE, I'M BEAUTIFUL, I'M GOING TO TORONTO AND I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE."

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT GOES INTO THE COCKPIT AND TELLS THE PILOT AND THE CO-PILOT THAT THERE IS A BLONDE BIMBO SITTING IN FIRST CLASS, THAT BELONGS IN ECONOMY AND WON'T MOVE BACK TO HER SEAT.

THE CO-PILOT GOES BACK TO THE BLONDE AND TRIES TO EXPLAIN THAT BECAUSE SHE ONLY PAID FOR ECONOMY SHE WILL HAVE TO LEAVE AND RETURN TO HER SEAT.

THE BLONDE REPLIES, "I'M BLONDE, I'M BEAUTIFUL, I'M GOING TO TORONTO AND I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE."

THE CO-PILOT TELLS THE PILOT THAT HE PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE THE POLICE WAITING WHEN THEY LAND TO ARREST THIS BLONDE WOMAN WHO WON'T LISTEN TO REASON.

THE PILOT SAYS, "YOU SAY SHE IS A BLONDE? I'LLHANDLE THIS, I'M MARRIED TO A BLONDE. I SPEAK BLONDE."

HE GOES BACK TO THE BLONDE AND WHISPERS IN HER EAR, AND SHE SAYS, "OH, I'M SORRY." AND GETS UP AND GOES BACK TO HER SEAT IN ECONOMY.

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND CO-PILOT ARE AMAZED AND ASK HIM WHAT HE SAID TO MAKE HER MOVE WITHOUT ANY FUSS.

"I TOLD HER, "FIRST CLASS ISN'T GOING TO TORONTO "


(Thank you Terry! Best joke I've heard in years!!)

6.23.2010

I love YOU!



I have no clue why it happened, but out of the blue, Blogger DELETED my blog. So, if you came by and wondered why I had "blocked" you from seeing it, wonder and worry no more. It wasn't me. It wasn't you. It was that pesky Techno Beast rattling our cages to make sure we're all awake. Sure woke me up. I thought my blog was gone forever--and that all my memories and journal entries had simply vanished!

So happy it's back! Welcome back. I LOVE YOU!

6.13.2010

Happy Birthday Gretchen!

My brother Bart met Gretchen through a personals ad he placed in the San Diego Union. When I think of how slim the odds are that two people so perfectly suited would find each another through a tiny, obscure newspaper ad, it makes me believe in magic and miracles and the sacredness of real love.
I'm certain that the last 15 years of Bart's life--those years he spent loving Gretchen--were the happiest of his life, and I love her with all of my heart for this, and so many other gifts she has given me.
Gretchen, I love you for loving my brother so sweetly, so perfectly, so genuinely, and for making so many of his dreams come true.
Thank you for making him smile again after so many years alone.
Thank you for being his trusty crew as the two of you sailed your majestic Blue Sky across the vast Pacific and up and down the Mexican Riviera.
Thank you for the way you loved and supported Natalie and Gavin as perfectly as he did.
I will always love you for the way you made Bart laugh playing Mexican train.
I will always love you for being his running partner and his tennis double, for taking such good care of Jessie while he traveled for work (and you weren't even and 'official' couple yet!)
Thank you for bringing kitties into his world.
Thank you for being my brother's favorite golfing buddy--and his best golf student. (He was so proud of how GOOD you got, so quickly!!)
Thank you for turning his homes into beautiful and comfortable havens. For working alongside him in the yard and on the boat, for tooling around in the golf cart with him, and sitting patiently back in the trailer while he fished. And fished. And fished.
Thank you for allowing him to feel smart and protective and supportive--for helping him to become his best self. I know he knew he was a better man because of you.
I love you for standing tall and strong and for being his comfort and his rock as the two of you fought his battle with cancer together.
Gretchen, I'm so sorry he lost that battle. I know how much he wanted to stay and continue on in that magical, fairy tale life the two of you built together.
I know how much he loved you and wants to be with you FOREVER, so I love you for all you're doing to make sure that this last of his dreams comes true. I know he will be there in the Mesa temple with all of us as you two are sealed together as husband and wife, as golfing and sailing buddies, as running partners and lovers and best friends--for eternity.
I love you so much my beautiful sister! I am so glad we will be sisters forever!
Happy, happy, HAPPY Birthday to you!

4.23.2010

Heaven is all around us.

When Bart was in the middle of his chemo, one of the only things that sounded good to him was Pomegranate shakes. Gretchen would stop by Arby's every day on her way to the hospital and pick one up to take to him. I understand how important that was to her. I remember how good it felt to be able to make chocolate shakes for Mom Link during her last days when so little tasted good to her. There's so very little you can do to bring comfort--when you find that One Thing that helps, even a little, your heart just melts with gratitude. For Bart and Gretchen, that One Thing was Pomegranate ice cream shakes.

Wednesday was Bart's birthday. I knew it would be a melancholy day for her and so we spent a long phone call sharing memories of our guy. We talked about what she might do to make it a celebration. She thought she might bake his favorite pie and take a slice to her friends. Gretchen has a wonderful heart.

The following day she sent me this email:
Yesterday I made Peanut Butter cookies because they were Bart's favorite and it made me feel good, but check this out! I found this ice cream at WalMart and it was most delicious!
It is called Sheer Bliss and certainly was. I got the Pomegranate.

Gavin's and my One Thing was notes. He'd leave them around for me to find. They were usually decorated with some of his artwork; fanciful little doodles that I always loved and generally tucked away somewhere. I just ran across one the other day while cleaning out my nightstand. It was Heaven. Literally.

Two weekends ago, as Greg and I drove back from clearing out Dad's house down in Scottsdale, we stopped in Sedona to hike. As we started out, I silently whispered to Gavin that I'd love it if he'd let me know that he was near. I always miss him when I hike. I have so many favorite memories of our hikes together. Anyway, I whispered my little longing to Gav, then forgot about it and just enjoyed my hike with Greg. It was a perfect day. Perfect temperature. Good conversation. Blue sky. Red rocks towering above us.

When we finally turned around to go back, we decided to slow down a little. Greg was hiking in flip-flops (the way Gav used to) and his hip was starting to get a little sore, so we ended up slowing down to a very easy stroll and I began to meditate by focusing on the details of the trail. It was then that I found it. Right in the middle of the trail we had already hiked over that morning. A large, flat-faced, red rock etched with the words, "I miss you." Etched around the letters were fanciful doodles of falling tear drops. Exactly like Gavin would have done. Exactly like him.

Heaven is all around us. It's in peanut butter cookies and pomegranate ice cream left for us in a freezer case in WalMart. It's etched in rocks along a desert trail or in notes tucked away in the night stand. All we have to do it ask for it. All we have to do is look.


4.15.2010

Hey, I want a family chant, too!


Well said, Brother Heber!

"I am perfectly satisfied that my Father [in Heaven] . . . my
God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His spirit!"
-Heber C Kimball
Journal of Discourses
February 8, 1857


4.13.2010


I've been told that the human mind cannot accurately remember pain.
I discovered tonight that this is a lie.

Tonight, I tried to watch the video Natalie posted about
pertussis--whooping cough,
the violent virus
that snatched our precious baby Gavin
from our family.

I could not bring myself to listen.
I had to play the video with the sound turned off.
But even that wasn't enough.
The pain, the helplessness, the anguish,
the shock, the despair,
the devastation . . .
all washed over me with a renewed vengeance.
The pain, as searing--as soul piercing--as it had been when
I stood helpless, trying to
comfort my suffering baby grandson
and his brave momma.

Please don't force another family to endure this.
Please vaccinate yourself against this disease.
It is making a return.
Please.
Protect our fragile little ones
from it's ravages.
Please.
Vaccinate yourself.

3.26.2010

Love it. Hate it.

I have a love-hate relationship with this blog. Obviously, for the last several weeks, the hate half has been winning. I even tried to pawn it off on Natalie . . . Oh! the idea of her taking on the pressure for a bit was so sweet and fine-- for about the time for it took it to slip out of my mouth and into her ear. You saw the evidence around how well that worked out. (I refuse to make a digital smiley face here, but I am smiling.)

So, I simply deserted blogging, and you. And I'm sorry for only half of that. I know you forgive me. Thanks for that. But it's a shame that for some of you/us, our only connection lies right here on this page, because this makes me a bad friend, and I don't ever want to be that. A bad blogger is fine with me. A bad friend is not. Cyber or not, I don't ever want to let a friend down.

I do realize that your worlds aren't much affected if I don't blog. I mean, really, I realize this, I do. But I have to admit, I get a little antsy when I think about you clicking by and finding Natalie's lame little post--and my abandonment--over and over and over again. So, instead, I give you this lovely stream of consciousness. Ta-da.

3.15.2010

Guest Blogger: Natalie Norton.

Natalie here.

Mom wanted me to be a guest blogger.

I said "no mom, that's stupid."

Have a great Monday anyway!

xx.

N

2.27.2010

Health Care Reform

Me (Reading to Greg from the Internet): Listen to this. "The incidence of overweight people in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions . . . approximately 65% of U.S. adults are overweight."
Greg: They otta just shoot 'em.

Me: Oh, yeah. Right. That'd mean that they'd shoot you and me, you know.

Greg (starting to get excited): Yeah! Think how great it would be! It'd be so much easier to stay on a diet. Talk about incentive.

Me: You've got a point there.

Greg (now really amped): That could be the solution to health care! There's my new plan: Just shoot 'em.

You realize that he's not kidding here, right? Well, mostly.

2.25.2010

Telling?


This morning I sent an email to some family members about arrangements for the sale of our mom and dad's home. Notice my typo. What a crybaby.

Annie Link wrote:
I just wrote a check from our personal account to H-- E-- in the amount of $X,XXX.00 to pay for painting at Dad's house. I will either reimburse myself out of Dad's account, or wail until we close on the house to collect these funds.

2.23.2010

The Boxer

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains.


Paul,
Sometimes, you say it
so perfectly,
so exactly,
so true to my core -
I feel like you've been living
right here in my body.

2.22.2010

Earl's List

So, I'm finally getting around to cleaning off my kitchen counters and table. Can you tell how hard I'm working on it? I mean, blogging is especially important to getting the job done right. A-n-y-w-a-a-y, I just ran across my scribbles from our church talks two weeks ago. Two husbands spoke about keeping love strong in a marriage. I liked that neither of them got all preachy on the subject. They were just regular guys--not Perfect Husbands, in fact, but honest and clearly trying. Earl shared a list of a few things he's trying to improve. (I'm going to remember this the next time I have to give a talk in sacrament meeting: Lists are good. Especially when they're honest--and succinct enough to squeeze into the white space on the program.)

So, here's Earl's list:

1. When we're having a fight: remember, at the end of the day, she wants the same things I do.
2. It is more important to be loving than to be right.
3. When we have a little free time together, discuss Interesting Things. Kids and finances are not Interesting Things.
5. Say hello and good bye--and take time to touch while you do.
6. Look good for your wife. He explained this one: "I probably look better to Julie when I'm taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher."
7. Pray with her so she can hear me say thank you to God for her.

I've been thinking about how I can customize Earl's list for the way I treat Greg. I wonder if he knows how often I thank God for him? I wonder if I look better to him when I'm clearing off the kitchen counter?

2.21.2010

Genuis

I once heard an interview with a songwriter who kept a pencil and pad on her nightstand to record her midnight genius flashes. One particular morning, especially excited to see the holy writ she remembered capturing in dream state, she grabbed the pad. It read, "Never buy a coat with a snake in the pocket."

Not that this ever happens to me
.

2.19.2010

Memories of Bart

The summer I turned 19, I hitchhiked my way to Nogales, Arizona, walked across the border into Mexico and bought a $20 bus ticket to Mazatlan.
As best as I remember, my ride over that shoulder-less, pot holed, desert road took about 18 hours, including stops to load and unload chickens and passengers. I was the only Gringa on the bus, the only person who spoke any English, 18, blonde, and wearing cut-off Levis and a t-shirt. I didn't dare sleep. When I arrived at the bus station I had only $85 cash, a swim suit, those cut-offs, and a scrap of paper on which I'd written the name of a trailer park where, hopefully, my brother was still camped.

Bart had called me from a phone booth about a month before. I could barely make out his voice. The line sounded ancient and crackled with Sonoran dust. "If you want to come meet me, I should be in Mazatlan by around the second week in June," he'd said. I told him I didn't think there was any way I could afford to get there, but we'd see. I had just finished my first year at college, quit my campus job and was moving out of my apartment to no-clue-where. Neither of us would have a phone or a mailbox. If we were going to meet up, luck (Karma, we called it in the 70's) would have to play a big role. I really didn't see it happening. But later, as I thought about the call, I could remember something in his voice. Something inviting. Love. He wanted me to come. I realized that I had to try to find him.

I have no memory of how I got from that dirty bus station to the scrappy trailer park on the beach outside of Mazatlan, but Bart was there, smiling like the sun, and he immediately gathered me up into those wonderful, strong arms. He'd been living there on the beach in his old camper and truck for about 3 weeks by then. I can still see exactly how beautiful he was: 24 years old, golden haired and bronzed from the Mexican sun. We eased into Mexican life. Showered outdoors with the giant cucarachas, body surfed all day, siesta-ed every afternoon in colorful hammocks we bought from the vendors on the beach, laughed til we peed in the evenings along the promenade or the moonwashed beach. We cooked fresh-caught shrimp that cost us about 12 pesos a kilo, laid them alongside thick slices of monster avocados, white crumbly queso and handmade tortillas. Our days melted into weeks. We lost the date and told the time only by the sunrise and sunset. I ran out of money. Bart never said a word.

An old dilapidated row boat showed up on our beach one day. We looked it over for a week or so, first working on stories about where it had come from, then wondering if it might be sea worthy enough to take us out to the little island, Isla Pijaro, we called it, midway off the horizon from our beach. The story telling and wondering took a while. It had to be sandwiched in between surfing, siestas and sunsets--and our tanning competition. We compared shades daily, forearm to forearm. By now, we were both "brown as a couple of berries." We chanted this several times a day, just the way Mom would have said it.

It was about this time that we lost the newly weds. They were a cute little couple, not more than 18 or 19 each, and had shown up at the park on their honeymoon. From Minnesota, I think; fresh faced and as straight-laced as librarians. They spent a couple of days working side by side, setting up the sweetest little camp you ever saw. Perfection just short of a white picket fence. We were all having so much fun watching them nest, it didn't take long to notice that they'd disappeared. 24 hours went by with no sign of them. The campground was buzzing. Theories flew like mosquitoes. Finally, the loner guy from California said he was pretty sure he'd seen somebody out skinny dipping in the ocean a couple nights before. Could it have been them? Did they get eaten by sharks? Turns out it was almost that bad. They'd gotten their bare little butts pulled out of the ocean by the Federali's. They spent the last three nights of their honeymoon in a Mexican jail.

Sometime after this excitement, we discovered a driftwood-looking oar somewhere around the park. It was a sign. We should test the ship. It leaked a tad, but we made it out to Isla Pijaro. The island was rocky and desolate of anything but scrub brush, but it had a pretty little beach with a small shore break, so we goofed around in the waves and watched the terns (Bart called them sea turds) until we got hot and thirsty and realized that we had no shade, and were starting to fry. (Of course we'd brought nothing other than our swim suits and the truck keys.) About half way home, the dingy started filling with water and when we realized that we weren't going to be able to bail fast enough, we both started laughing so hard we capsized and the truck keys sank into the briny deep. Bart didn't even think to get upset, he was too busy laughing at the insanity of it all. It was so like him. Why get angry? Things always work out, don't they?

One morning we woke up and decided it was time to move house. We christened the truck Spiro and the camper, Martha and set out to explore the dusty roads that lay southward. We drove through the magic of my first-ever fireflies and into jungles black in the night, surprising the tlacuaches with our headlights as they hung by their tails from the trees that curved over the narrow dirt road into San Blas. We practiced our Spanish trying to sing Give Said the Little Stream, and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam in the language, coaxing Spiro over mountain passes, blasting the heater to keep the engine from overheating.
Big cities were disorienting. We found our way to the Orozzco Gallery through the traffic of Guadalajara by following the first blue car we saw. Bart would say, "This guy looks like he knows where he's going, don't you think?" and we'd set into following him. In Mexico City, it was a red truck, I think, that led us to the Zona Rosa. We were never lost. But we never really had much of a destination, for that matter.
In the smaller cities,in the 1970's of Taxco and San Miguel d'Allende and all the others whose names I've forgotten, there was no need for a lead car. One road only, and it always led into to the town square, where again, we'd be the only live blondes most had ever seen. The children would gather round Bart, first curious and shy, but finally giggling and teasing. He enchanted them. He enchanted me. I had never known that kind of love and absolute acceptance. I had never known that kind of joy.

And it was always, exactly that sweet for all of my life with Bart. Always that delicious hug. Always that generosity and complete acceptance. Always that love that never judged, that knew no bounds.

One year ago tonight, on the eve of our mother's birthday, I stood by his bedside and whispered to my brother that it was OK for him to leave. I promised him I'd take good care of Gretchen and told him I expected him to give Gavin a big hug for me. I told him how much I loved him, how grateful I was for the way he had always loved me. For the joy we'd always shared. I called softly to Gretchen, telling her I thought she should probably come in, our vigil was over. We held his hands and stroked his beautiful cheeks, said our good-byes and lovingly eased him on his way.

I sure do miss you, my Bubba. Thank you for a perfect ride.




2.13.2010

Perfect Valentine's cookies


Let's start with the best part first . . .

My Favorite Sugar Cookie Frosting

Cream together:
1 C Butter, room temp
1 8 oz. brick Cream Cheese, room temp
1 Tbsp Vanilla

Slowly stir in:
1 2-pound bag bag Powdered Sugar

Frosting should be soft and creamy, so watch closely as you add the powdered sugar and stop adding sugar before the frosting starts to get too 'stiff.'

Now add:
2-3 drops red food coloring (for Valentine hearts)
1-3 tsp Almond Extract (Add, stir and taste, add, stir and taste. I like lots. Your tongue may be more wimpy.)

Cover with plastic wrap and hide it from yourself and the kids in fridge just while you bake your cookies. Don't leave for too long in the fridge! It will get too firm. (Great for eating with a spoon but not good for spreading on cookies.)



Amazingly Easy Sugar Cookies:

Cream together:
2 Cups Margarine (sticks not tub)
Do NOT try to get fancy and substitute butter. Trust me: this time butter is NOT better.
2 Cups Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
2 large eggs


Stir together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture:
4 tsp baking powder (not soda)
1 tsp salt
5-6 Cups flour (watch dough texture during addition of last cup, you may only need 5-ish cups flour)

Roll out to about 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters. This dough does not have to be chilled. You will love how easy it is to work with! (I roll them out on parchment paper, which makes the cut cookies easy to lift to cookie sheet.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-7 minutes. If you like soft cookies, under-bake (large, thick cookies: 6-7 mins, smaller, thinner cookies: 5 minutes).

*I also bake these on parchment paper. Use a flat (no edges) cookie sheet. This way, you can use the parchment to slide the hot cookies quickly off the cookie sheet and onto the counter so the hot cookie sheet doesn't continue baking them. If you like crisp cookies, you wouldn't need to do this.

(My local grocer's bakery sells me sheets of parchment paper, cheap, cheap, cheap. Ask around.)

Wait until the cookies cool to frost them. As your cookies sit, the frosting will form a slightly crisp 'crust', but underneath that crust will be dreamy, creamy lusciousness that surprises and delights on first bite. If you're going to add sprinkles of any kind, it's important to shake them on quickly, before the frosting dries.

WARNING: Do not make these cookies when no one else is home. You will eat the first batch all by yourself and then be forced to make another batch to cover your tracks. I've grown out of several wardrobes this way.

(Photo from google images. Thanks! to whoever shot it.)

2.10.2010

How blessed
loved,
relieved,
and comforted
I felt this afternoon as I read these words
from a modern-day apostle of the Lord:

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see proverbs 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain . . . Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.
-Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord," Ensign, November 1995, 16.


2.05.2010

Because I'm not really sure where to find you . . .

. . . I'm going to post my response to your email to Natalie here, too. I'm sure hoping that you'll see it. I really want you to know, I understand.

Dearest Anonymous,

Thank you for reaching out--in what was probably the best way you could come up with in that moment. Your words have given me an opportunity to look into my own heart and this is what I saw:

There have been days when I, too, have felt 'left out' and misunderstood--and in those dark moments,
I haven't always been able to be my best self
or to find the perfect words to say,
"uh, I'm having kind of a hard time over here . . ."

There have been days when my pain was so acute,
I've said things I didn't really mean-
(and Oh! how I've wished that nobody else heard,
and I could just have a quiet 'do over').

There have been times when I've judged harshly
before I really understood . . .

When Natalie and Gavin were growing up, I used to always tell them this:

"Sometimes . . .
you have to look really hard at a person . . .
and remember . . .
that they're doing the best they can.
They're just trying to find their way, that's all . . .
Just like you."

And do you know what young Natalie would usually say?
"Mom. Shut up."

(I was really good at talking too much--
especially after it was time to shut up.
Yeah, I know, you noticed.)

Anyway, dear Anon, thanks for helping me see these things.
I sure hope you're feeling a little better today.
And I hope I've seen clearly here.
I've prayed to be able to.

I love you,
Annie
(Natalie's mom)

[the quote came from my favorite movie: On Golden Pond.]

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship . . . or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with . . . awe and circumspection . . . that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

I really want to be the kind of person who reaches out to
"lift the hands that hang down."

But sometimes it's hard.

Sometimes . . .
those "hands' try to push me away

Sometimes, they even lash out at me and
I get hurt
and offended
and I want to hurt back.
I feel self-righteous and want to
condemn, ridicule,
snub or turn away.

It's these times when I have to take a deep look at my heart
and prayerfully ask

How committed am I to
Love
and LIFT
especially
when hands hang down?

Immortal horrors?
or
Eternal splendors?

For my fellow immortals
and for myself . . .
the choice is mine.

1.30.2010

Before and After

Oh, Natalie.
I remember trying to describe this once.
How pictures from Before
bring such an onslaught of feelings,
such a mix of emotion.
My After-self gazes with tenderness
compassion
fear
longing, yearning, sorrow
when I see pictures
of my innocent, unsuspecting Before-self.
I trace her face with my fingertip
and whisper sweet condolences.
Though my heart yearned for your understanding,
NEVER
in all my aching prayers for freedom from grief's isolation,
did I think that your understanding,
your empathy
would one day be this full . . .
. . . this excruciating.
Still
My heart lifts in gratitude
as I watch yours open so fully,
and your soul rise so sweetly
in love for He who walks this path with us.
I have prayed for these blessings in your life
from the moment I first kissed your beautiful little face.
But
never did I imagine
my prayers would be answered in
this
searing
way.

If I had known . . .
Would I have tried to spare you ?
Probably.

But we did know, didn't we?
And we chose not to change a thing.
How great the wisdom and the love
that called for our vote before
and not after
the Plan was set in motion.

Again life's double edged sword,
the opposition in all things:
It's dizzying
to feel so sorry
and yet so grateful
all in the same heartbeat.

Please feel both from me.
I love you so.

1.29.2010

Once upon a time
parents, families, friends
stood on a windy pier
said tearful good-byes
held each other close
and then watched as their loved one
climbed aboard a ship and
sailed away.

From that day on
they knew only that
the adventurers would be
somewhere
out there
in a New World
making a new life
for themselves.
And that knowledge
had to be enough.

Most of them called it
Adventure.

1.28.2010

Ecclesiastes 3:3

I've gotten email from so many of you who have lost children and wonder that you still grieve so deeply--who somehow feel frail and awkward and guilty about your grief, like maybe you need to hide your pain somehow. This post is for you. It's from a journal entry I wrote a full 18 months after Gavin died, and two months after losing my amazing friend and brother.

The late spring snows have crushed my daffodils again . . . arrrgh! Just when I was so hungry for the sun! But we need the water and my sweet little daffodils are still under there, spunky and resilient. They'll come back--good as new.
This weekend [general conference], I drank in precious, healing waters I know Heavenly Father wanted me to hear. He's been feeling after me and is concerned I know, but I'm still bowed down under the weight of grief come again too soon. If I were a little bird, the coyotes would have gotten me by now. Vulnerable. Wanting to hide.
God understands this need to hide, I'm sure. He waits and watches lovingly, leans toward me, hands patiently folded. Quiet. Tender. Patient. He knows me. Knows I'll find my balance and open up again, come out into the light. I will. Everything in it's time.

We cleaned out Gavin's car on Saturday. Well, Greg did. I love that man. Later, I stood in the laundry room and hugged a shirt that Gav had left in his trunk . . . how long ago? Long enough that his smell was missing. I searched for it, buried my face in that shirt, tried to imagine it. It wasn't there. But I could feel him in the thin, smooth cotton against my cheek, and I held him tight to my chest and cried. Hot, yearning tears. I don't resist them when they come. In many ways, they're part of what I have left of my boy, and it's good to feel them on my face, taste their salt on my lips.

Today, I loved these words from President Uchdorf:

We need the refining lessons of the journey
to craft our character
and purify our hearts.

1.26.2010

Birthday wishes



I wish I could decorate your door with crepe paper streamers and balloons.
And wake you in the morning with a do-nut birthday cake and candles
and a crazy birthday song
that I stayed up too late writing
(set to Beatles music, of course)

I wish I could touch your face and tell you how proud of you I am
and hug you and tell you how cool it is that you're taller than me

I wish we could dance around the kitchen together
(oh, I miss dancing with you, so much)
I wish we could go for a hike
or a late night walk in the snow
(remember?)

I wish for one of your phone calls to tell me about
the tiny frog you've got in your hand
or the run you just finished
or how much you love President Hinckley
or that you're back safe from your ocean paddle
(thanks so much for those 'I'm home safe' calls)

Today, I'm cherishing
the way you'd open my car door
the notes you always left for me to find
the way you always said, "I love you, Mama."
and the way your voicemails always started out,
"Hi Mama! It's your baby boy!"

I'm remembering your arm around my shoulder
and your smile
(oh, your smile)
and your text messages--
"11:11 Mom. Thinkin of you."
"Pancakes!"
And your amazing hugs
your grateful heart
and the way you loved me so openly
So freely
So unashamedly
So unconditionally

Thank you, my son.
For all you were.
For all you are.
You're a pretty awesome guy, you know.
I feel humbled and so blessed
that you chose me to be your mom
Grateful that you knew I'd understand
that you had to leave-
that you had a greater work to do
that there were others who needed your love
your testimony of the Savior and His Atonement
and the gift of your understanding heart.

I am eternally blessed by the knowledge of
Where you are now
and What you're doing
and in Whose name you serve.

I do love you Gav.
Always did, no matter what
Always will, no matter where

Please feel my hand on your cheek
and hear the love in my heart when I say,
You're still making me proud, my buddy.

Happy Birthday, Gavin-San.
I love you.
Kiss your little nephew for me, will you?
And tell him how much I miss him--
miss both of you.
I love you both.
So very much.
Ooooooooooooo, I love you.
Forever.
Mom

p.s. I know I'm a day early,
but, I wanted to make sure you get this first thing in the morning-
(I know it's not quite a do-nut cake, candles and streamers. I just
couldn't figure that one out.)

1.24.2010

Diamonds

Dearest Arden,
Let me give you one simple reason
I know that God is good.
(There are a million of them --
but for tonight
this is the one that shines most brightly for me.)

My patriarchal blessing tells me that I will live
only as long as life is sweet to me.
So whenever life seems like more than I can bear
I always check to see if I'm still alive.

Yes, today my heart is breaking at
yet another unimaginable loss
A tiny life, bright and precious
gone from our arms so soon.
Almost too soon to bear
So soon, following
So many others
I have cherished and prayed for
And still lost
So soon
I can't seem to catch my breath in between them all
And now no way to spare my beautiful daughter
from this anguish
I understand far too well.

But I know God is good,
And I know His promises are sure
And I'm still alive.
So, I dry my eyes and lift my weary head
and look around
for the promised sweetness.

I don't have to look far.

Tonight, when I went out to walk the dogs,
a quiet moon poured down onto the fresh, perfect snow
and cast a thousand shimmering diamonds across the landscape.

So.
Even if He asks me to suffer for now
I know God is good and tender
and loving and caring
and mindful of me.

Because when I walked out into the darkness
and the deep chill of this winter night,
He cared enough
to pave my way with diamonds.



"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are the children of God:
and if children, then heirs;
heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;
if so be that we suffer with him,
that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Romans 8:16-18