Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reflection - Things Look Brighter After Today

     We passed Winter Solstice today and thank goodness! The days will get a little longer from here on out! The Winter Solstice occurred early this morning, marking the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. There is only one place I want to be during the shortest day of the year and that is in front of my fireplace in the den, watching T.V. I know, I should be out doing last minute Christmas shopping and getting those last minute deals, but it's just too cold and dark after about 5:30 p.m. But at least I don't live in Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle. For people who live there, it's dark 24-7. I'm also glad that I am off for the Christmas Break. I work about 38 hours a week at a high school as a special education para educator. So this was my first day off for a 2-week vacation!
     I actually look at Winter Solstice maybe a little differently than some. I know that it is an ancient Celtic celebration and even some traditional Christmas symbols can also be traced to the ancient celebrations of Solstice. For instance, lights and candles were put out to ward off the darkness and encourage the coming of Spring during Solstice. I love the Celtic influence in Christmas celebrations. I have Scottish ancestry and very much appreciate watching the 'Celtic Women' Christmas PBS Special each year. For me, it is one of the things I look forward to every year.
     Since we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ very soon, I look at today, this most dark of days and ask myself what it was like for the world before the Savior was born. The world's inhabitants had no way to save themselves from their own sins. We are taught that nothing can dwell in the presence of God that isn't perfect. And since all of us sin, man was doomed to live outside of Heaven and dwell in their sins forever, spiritually dead. How dark was that? I'd say it couldn't get much more. How much it meant to the world when finally the Savior was born, the only one who would be able to save the world from its sins. Because of His birth, the world came out of darkness and was given hope.

"Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.
Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.
Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life." -Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
     And so, Winter Solstice is a very fitting preliminary event to Christmas, reminding me of how dark the world was before Christ's birth and how much brighter the world was, after His birth. May you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy it in the ways that are special to you! Thanks for letting me share!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in GRASS VALLEY, CA. It was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Missouri.

The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.

Crabby Old Man...
What do you see nurses? . . ... . . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . . When you're looking at me?
A crabby old man . .. . . . Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .... . . . . With faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food . . . .. . And makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . . 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice .. .. . .... . The things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . A sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not . . . . . Lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . .. . .. . The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? . .... . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . .. . You're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am. . . . .... . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . .. . As I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .. . . .. With a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . .. ... .. Who love one another.

A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. With wings on his feet.
Dreaming that soon now . . . . ... A lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . .. My heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . . That I promised to keep.

At Twenty-Five, now . . . .... . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other .. . . . . With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons . . ... . . Have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside me . . . . . To see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children .. . . . My loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me . . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . . Shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . .... . . . Young of their own.
And I think of the years .. . . .. . And the love that I've known.

I'm now an old man . . . . ..... And nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age . . . . . Look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . . Grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . . Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . . . . . A young guy still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . My battered heart swells.
I remember the joys . . . . . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . ... . Life over again.

I think of the years, all too few . . . . ... Gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . .. . . That nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . ... . Open and see.
Not a crabby old man . ... . . Look closer . .. . See ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within.

We will all, one day, be there, too!
By: Jim Satnan

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Christianity Question - Part I

     Since we are now hot and heavy into the race for the GOP nomination it seems that once again the old (getting really old) question about whether or not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are real or false Christians is being scrutinized in the media.

    One reverend Jeffress decided to lay it out and tell his 10,000 member congregation and news media and those interested in the candidates competing for the Republican nomination that, among other things, Mormonism is a "theological cult",  and that Americans should want a true Christian for president (i.e. Rick Perry) as opposed to a false Christian (i.e. Mitt Romney). 
       I ran across an e-mail my DH wrote to a Mr. Bill Hemmer, anchor at Fox & Friends, to make the case that the LDS church is indeed and should be considered Christian.  DH cited some of the criteria Jeffress used to make his claims about the invalidity of LDS Christianity:  I loved it and so I am sharing his reasoning here.  It makes sense to me!
     "Mormonism was invented 1800 years after Jesus Christ and the founding of Christianity..."   If you look at the three largest groups that represent Christianity throughout the world - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and find the following:
Originally the Roman Catholic Church was part of the Orthodox Church.  A division occurred in 1054 A.D. wherein the church was divided into east (Greek) and west branches (Latin), which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church (east) and the Roman Catholic Church (west).  This event is known as the "Great Schism".  It happened because of political, ecclesiastical and theological differences and disputes.
     Therefore, even within the origins of Christianity and the largest Christian denomination in the world, differences in doctrine split the church into entities that remain to this day.  The third group mentioned, Protestantism, is a movement based on rebellion against the Roman Catholic church.
     If the three primary groups of Christianity throughout the world cannot see eye-to-eye on Christian doctrines and the interpretations thereof, and Christian practices/ordinances are not consistent between the three to this day, and if divisions within the ranks and the establishment of the major Christian denominations occurred 1054 years and 1500 yeas after the death of Jesus Christ, is it so far-fetched for another Christian religion to evolve in 1830 A.D. (Mormonism)?
     " Mormonism has a human leader vs. a divine leader, Joseph Smith..."   Yes, Joseph Smith was the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), yet his designation as a leader of the faith is no different than the Pope being the leader of the Catholic church.  In both cases, a man leads the church in this capacity; to communicate the will of God to the people.  In the case of the Catholic church, the pope is deemed to act in conjunction with Deity to provide instruction, counsel, interpretation, etc. to their members and to the world.  So it is with the Latter-day Saint, they have prophets who speak the Word of God to their members, originating with Joseph Smith. 
     Should Joseph Smith be considered any less a legitimate founder of a religion than Martin Luther and John Calvin, founders of Protestantism?  Can he not be afforded the same degree of acknowledgment in that God may have chosen to speak to him, and through him, regarding His will and His doctrine? 
     There were others who founded Christian religions centuries after Christ's death; King Henry VIII - Anglican Church of England (1534); John Knox - Presbyterian Church (1580) John Smith - The Baptist Church (1606); John Wesley - The Methodist Church (1774).   All of these Christian denominations were founded by a human leader.  The Baptist Church, Mr. Jeffress' denomination, was not founded until 1606 A.D., 1500+ years after Christ.  The "leader" of the Mormon faith is indicated in the official name of the religion, that is, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."  It is also interesting to note that of all the faiths mentioned, not one of them contain the name of the Savior and Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, in their name.  If Jesus Christ is the head of any church or religion, should not the church/religion be called in his name?
     Those are just two of the criticisms Mr. Jeffress had.  Both of these criticisms I believe to be invalid.  I love the Savior, Jesus Christ.  I believe that through Him is the only way to make it back to live in the presence of Heavenly Father. I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It provides the teachings, ordinances and keys I need to make it back to Heaven someday.  What can be more Christian than that?  I will have more in an upcoming post!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Latest Timed Mile Run

I posted earlier about a really easy way to predict the kind of health you will have in your later years.  All you have to do is do a mile run and look at the time you did it in.  So, I thought I was in fairly great shape because I take my dog on runs, am not seriously overweight and can still do the splits.   But my time earlier this summer wasn't great, that's for sure.  So I vowed to do something about it.  I did, until I started back to work at the high school and since then I've been absolutely horrible about keeping up my cardio.  But thanks to Alice, my Alternative HS's Physical Education Teacher (and my well-respected friend), I decided to do a timed run again with her students.  She has started making her own students accountable for their cardiovascular health by doing several timed runs during the school year and measuring improvement!
    Thursday morning was a crisp fall morning as we made our way out to the river trail, which is adjacent to our small school.  I had made one discovery since my earlier timed run.  If I stop, it's really hard to start back up again.  So I promised myself I wouldn't stop, no matter what.  If I was doing the old-lady two-step by the time I was through, so be it, I wasn't going to stop. 
     Alice's whistle blew, and off I went, along with about 25 other students.  It was so funny.  Everyone blew by me. I just knew that I was going to be so humiliated and come in dead last.  Oh well, this wasn't to impress anyone.  I just wanted to see if I could beat my last time.  Darn, now I was regretting my negligence about working out these past 3 weeks.  I just kept telling myself, "don't stop, don't stop, whatever you do.  You've been through childbirth, nothing can top that, you're a strong woman...."  
    It wasn't long before I noticed that some of the kids were walking and that I was passing them!  I also noticed that when they saw that I was passing them, they started back up.  I guess it WOULD be the ultimate humiliation to have someone as old as their mom or even older, passing them up.  And so we kept going. I reached the halfway point, took the candy from the lady, to prove that I had indeed reached the halfway point, and started back.  I passed more winded students up, and then I saw the finish line.  I had enough in me to speed up as I crossed.  
    When it was all said and done, I increased my original time by over a minute!  I'm super excited and it did a lot for my motivation.  This morning I took my dog out for a trail run/walk and enjoyed it immensely!  Have a wonderful fall!  You can do it too!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

6 Month Re-Cap

It's been over 6 months since Joseph came to our home to live full-time. What  a fun-filled, hectic, perplexing, happy time it has been!  He came to our home not too sure of himself, angry, depressed, low self-esteem and in danger of flunking out of 8th grade because he hadn't been attending and the truancy officers were after him and his dad.  And so it was with some sense of desperation that his dad called me after all these years of my wishing he was with me, wishing I could help him, wishing that he weren't so far away.  Now here was my opportunity and I seized it.  While his dad was still hemming and hawwing about whether or not he should be living with me, trying to think of a way to get out of paying for him to come out, I simply got online and purchased a one-way ticket for Joseph to come.  I bought the ticket without getting a final affirmative answer, without knowing whether he would be on the flight and without knowing whether I could afford it, but I knew that he needed to come immediately or his 8th grade year might not be salvageable. I provided the means.  No strings attached.  Thank goodness my ex thought enough of Joseph to let him come and live with his other family. The semester had already begun.  Time was of the essence.  He had already completely flunked out of the fall term.  He needed to make some things up really quickly or else...He arrived on January 31st and started school the next day.  Off to the races.  I was working full-time and so I depended heavily on Greg, my husband, to pick up the slack.  We have been married for over 10 years now, since Joseph was 4.  Joseph knows us as the other parents--the ones he sees once, maybe twice a year if we're extremely lucky.  
    Joseph was definitely thrown into very unfamiliar territory.  The kids here didn't even talk like him.  He had trouble understanding their lingo, since he has been living in the deep south since he was 6 years old.  Where were the woods that he was used to taking off to for hours?  Why was there a woman in the house?  He was used to living with his Dad and only sometimes had his stepmom in the house, when she wasn't with her own kids in Utah.  Why were we always bugging him with things like bedtime, shower time, wake up time, homework time, church time, family home evening, chores?  The structure was like a ton of bricks on him.  It was suffocating.  Nevertheless, he was obedient and tried his best.  He didn't miss a day of school.  And at the end of the school year, in May, he had a 3.86 GPA.  I literally couldn't have done it without Greg.  Joseph wasn't used to the influence of a mom--me.  The only thing I had been able to do for many years was to give him a once a week phone call and that had started only a few years ago.  Before that, contact was very limited.  He definitely related to Greg better, even though he wasn't used to the structure that Greg insisted on.  Sometimes I felt so bad that he was obviously having a hard time and Greg would insist on close to perfection from him.  I said, "Can't we just be happy for some progress in this area and not be so hard on him?"  But Greg's answer made sense--"He doesn't have the luxury of time.  He needs to learn this now.  If he doesn't learn it now, it will be too late.  So he needs to get it NOW."  And so I tried to support what were obviously hard and painful things for Joseph to pick up.  Literally, picking up his dishes and bringing them upstairs to the kitchen was and continues to be a big, difficult battle.  Not spitting in the kitchen sink and other hygiene issues--rather important in civilized society-- needed to be worked on as well.
    But can I just say that when he smiles, the world smiles with him?  He's got the most beautiful smile and it melts my heart.  I fall in love with my son every single time he smiles.  Other than that, I'm in constant self-reminder mode about how much he means to me and that I need to exercise patience and long-suffering. (Like the time he came in and with a huge smile told me that he wrecked my beloved bike, like I was supposed to give him an award...)
  • Things broken -  fishing pole, my bike, my earphones, shower stall door, back gate...
  • Things lost:  2 lighters, homework assignments, his electric razor (accused me of stealing it), wallet (accused me of stealing it),back pack (we drove to SLC to get it back)...
  • Teasing - Evee our dog, me, the neighbor girl who rides up and down the street on her bike, girls at school....
  • Loud noises - constant whistling, tracking in lots of stuff from outside, loud clapping, loud singing of nonsensical songs, blowing off fireworks at odd hours, maniacal laughing for no apparent reason...
  • Detachment - in room, not coming out for long periods, not wanting me to disturb him, not wanting to friend me on Facebook (that's OK, I just settled for his password!), resistant to hugs :(  
  • Bathroom - too much time in bathroom, hour long showers, face picking issues
  • Loves - Evee, the dog,  his brother, sleeping in, fireworks, longboarding, 'Everybody Loves Raymond' re-runs (It's so funny to hear him chuckling throughout the episodes), banana pancakes, FHE, watergate salad, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, Star Craft.
  • Progress:  3.86 GPA, made varsity for Provo HS as a Freshman, laughs more, talks more, is more outgoing, plays the guitar a little bit. Ordained a Teacher in his Teacher's Quorum, has stopped teasing me and the dog so much, has learned more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  
We've been struggling in many ways to provide Joseph with a fertile environment to be able to grow and progress.   Sometimes I wonder how we do it.  No one has helped us at all.  As a matter of fact, I have actually paid over $650 to Joseph's Dad while he has been with us.  We've wondered where each month's rent will come from and still do.  But if this is what needs to happen, then so be it.  I love Joseph so much.  I know who he was as a baby and I know his heritage and potential.  And I melt when he smiles!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Hot Do Fireworks Get?

That is the question I posed today to my dear husband.  He replied, "700 degrees, maybe?"  That sounded incredibly hot, but I wanted to confirm it.  (Not that I don't believe everything that comes out of the man's mouth, I do....) I got on my trusty Google Search Engine.  I was asking because even after almost a week after the 4th, my arm is still hurting where I was hit by an errant firework at our family party.  And the ugliness on my arm makes one want to avert their eyes because if you didn't know what it was, at first glance it looks like some kind of fungus or leprosy eating two holes in my skin.  
    Yep, it seems like I can never get through a summer without some kind of mishap, ruining my summer "look" with some kind of scar, bruise or scrap.  It never fails!  Last summer I sported a slow-healing red scrap on my lower leg as a result of a mishap on my bike.  It just wouldn't go away.  It has finally healed, but now this year I've got another nick on my calf from something (probably shaving) and now this!  I don't anticipate this going away for some time.  I mean, seriously, my darling nephew basically blew two holes in my arm.  We're all joking around as I scrape off the black charred skin, and I'm telling him the inevitable scars will give me something to remind me of him, dear sweet Matthew!  But inside, it's not quite as funny as I let on.  I'm using tea tree oil like crazy, hoping it won't get infected because doctors are to be avoided if possible, since I don't like going to them!  Didn't I just post about a traumatic event that happened to me one summer?  This could get old!  
    Oh, by the way, the result of my Google Search was this:
  • Black powder (gunpowder) commonly used in rockets and as a burst charge in aerial shells, burns at temperatures up to 1700oC.
  • Pyrotechnic stars used in rocket headers and shells, if fuelled by a metal powder such as magnesium, can easily burn at temperatures in excess of 2200oC.
  • Flash powders used to make a bright flash and a loud bang, can burn at temperatures above 3000oC.
Ummm....pretty sure that I got a burn from flash powder used to make a bright flash and loud bang since we were doing aerial fireworks that have just recently been made legal in the state of Utah!  "Can burn at temperatures ABOVE 3000 degrees centigrade"?  Ahh, that's why my skin turned black and there are now two holes.  Got it!  Baby, 700 degrees was quite a low ball figure!  Just saying......
     But being the quintessential optimist that I am, I am telling you that there is always a silver lining in this!  For one thing, I won't be washing my own hair for awhile.  My local hair salon will be seeing a lot more of me so I can get my hair washed, styled and blown out!  (They give great scalp massages too!)  And, I have a whole pack of cute, girly designer band-aids that are just waiting for the perfect wound. I will be injured in style!  So there you go, positive thinking at its best!
I can't wait to get the girly band-aids out.  That WILL be my summer look

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Experimentation with Chard!

   If you haven't cooked with Swiss Chard, I suggest you do it this summer!  It's delicious!  Swiss Chard was one of the offerings I picked up on my bi-monthly fruits and veggies co-op visit!  For $16.00 Bountiful Baskets fills a small laundry basket completely full of wonderful fruits and vegetables, some of which I wouldn't automatically think of purchasing at the store!  I love the element of surprise when I pick up my baskets.  I can then use my savvy at stealing recipes from the internet creativity and include it in my menus for the week.  OK, usually I just cook one dish--not in conjunction with an entire meal--and call it good. Who am I kidding?  It's the experimentation that is fun!
    I went to the pick-up spot and noticed this huge green leafy bundle, with bright red stems.  I thought it was rhubarb, but the lady told me that it was Swiss Chard. 
Two baskets for each order--One basket is fruit and the other vegetables.  We fill our own containers with both of these baskets.
I'm embarrassed to say I've never cooked Swiss Chard, but I've always intended to!  The leaves are very thick and don't look like they would taste very good in a salad. 

With a few pointers from the internet, I got started.  First I cut up an onion, 2 carrots, and some garlic.  I sauteed these in some bacon drippings until they were tender.  
 I then added some chicken broth and put in the finely chopped red stalks of the chard.  I cooked these until they were tender and lastly added the leaves and cooked them until they wilted!  I added some crumbled bacon, lemon juice and topped it with Parmesan cheese.  
 The result was amazing!  I felt like a chef indeed!  I absolutely love the subtle zingy taste of the chard.  It would be a great addition to any Italian meal!
    My next conquest is to use two huge butternut squashes in a meal!  Off to the internet I go!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Almost Happened To Me

   I am impressed with people who have gone through tragic events which have left them disfigured in some way and who still manage to keep optimism and a positive outlook in life!  I can somewhat identify with the prospect of being permanently disfigured because at one time I thought I would be disfigured for life!  
    About 8 years ago, Greg and I were invited to go on an ATV outing with some friends to Little Sahara, located in the Sevier Desert in Western Utah. I had never been on an ATV before, but was excited to learn!  We spent the first night riding around the camp slowly in a group.  I enjoyed doing that and looked forward to the next day of riding in a more extensive area.  The scenery was stark and beautiful at the same time, with sand dunes fanning out as far as I could see!  First thing in the morning, a group was rounded up to go out and I was assigned a helmet and a big monstrosity of a vehicle.  I hurriedly put on the helmet, got on my ATV and took off.  I was a little tentative, being that it was my first ride out of camp and the speed was definitely faster than the night before.  I found myself trying to catch up with the rest of the group.   Then, they totally disappeared over a big sand dune.  Not wanting to be left behind and be lost, I revved up the engine and started straight toward the large sand dune, thinking that the more speed I acquired the better chance I'd have to get over the hill.  Faulty thinking on my part.  Apparently, I didn't catch the steep incline right and the speed must have been waaaay too fast because I hit the rise of the dune and it lurched me forward onto the steel steering shaft.  I would have been OK, if my helmet hadn't gone flying off before my face hit it.  I felt a violent, sharp shooting pain and I knew that I was in trouble.  I started crying and screaming in pain, and frankly, I don't know what I said or did from that time on until I was being taken in the car to the hospital and I really don't feel that I can be responsible!  I know that some time after the accident a friend who was there asked me, "Did you really mean those things you said?"  I told her that I did, but after considering my state of mind and my level of coherence, maybe I said some things that were uncharacteristic of myself!  I just don't know....
     Suffice it to say, my nose was trashed--split wide open and pretty much shattered.  I remember being looked at after arriving at the hospital in Nephi, which was 100 miles away and they just said they couldn't do anything for me.  They called ahead to Provo to notify the plastic surgeon on call that I would be coming in.  When I was rolled into Provo, I remember that it was Dr. Hershie, who I later found out was the premier plastic surgeon in the area.  As was his custom before any operation, he said a prayer over me to bless me and him as we entered into the surgery to repair my annihilated nose.  He did one other thing for me--he put 3 or 4 long Q-Tips saturated with a liquid I wasn't familiar with into the wound where my nose used to be.  Pretty soon, I started feeling really, really calm, even peaceful, yes, even transcendentally happy.  I asked what in the world he had given me to make me feel so wonderful when only a few minutes before I had felt so distraught and in pain.  He informed me that he had just given me liquid LSD!  Crikey!  So that's why people get hooked on drugs!  Wow!  Don't get me wrong, I'd never be a junkie, but to feel like that just once, at that particular time, was a gift!  And so, I got through my initial nose repair.  
       I went through one more surgery and I felt that no matter how many surgeries I had, I'd always look like a freak.  I wondered how I would relate to people, how I would be able to socialize, how other people would perceive me as someone with a severely disfigured face.   Fortunately, Dr. Hershie worked his magic and along with a beautiful priesthood blessing I received at the hands of my home teacher wherein I was promised that no one would be able to tell I had ever been in an accident, I never had to live the life of a person with a disfigurement.  
     But there are those people who do and I am so amazed and in awe of them!  For instance there is a woman who many people know about and who personifies the essence of inner beauty and strength--her name is NieNie!  Have you heard of her?  She's pretty famous around these parts.  She and her husband are plane crash survivors.  She is very generous and shares her story with everyone who cares to know on her blog.  She teaches us all a lot about true love, family, what really matters and beauty on the inside!  
    And I found a story that touched me so much about a 12-year-old boy from the Ukraine who was in his small home when an oil heater exploded.  It killed both of his parents and left him with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75 percent of his body.  He probably should have died.  But he survived.  And today, he is here in the U.S. and adopted by wonderful parents and a joy to all who know him.  He is so grateful.  He was able to get new eyelids, a new nose and fingers from what were once his toes.   
     Both of these stories are such great examples of the triumph of the human spirit.  My hat goes off to them and I will continue to thank God for the many blessings I receive each and every day and try to be more service-oriented and compassionate to those around me. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Moving Rendition of National Anthem

I happened to see the opening ceremony of the NBA Finals Game in Miami, FL.  It piqued my interest about who was singing the National Anthem.  It was Marc Anthony, commonly known as Mr. JLo, Jennifer Lopez's husband with whom she has twins!  I was absolutely blown away by his singing and his stage presence.  So here is a peek for you!  You agree with my critique, yes? 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Venture Into Long Boarding!

My son, Joseph, invited me to go on an outing with him on the local river trail.  It was about 50 degrees outside, which to us was tropical weather after the cold winter we've had.  So he got on his trusty longboard and I on my bike and off we went.  He says he would be considered average on a longboard, certainly not a "skater" type.  But I think he's really good! 

   I enjoyed watching him glide along the fairly smooth trail, his hands casually shoved into his jean pockets and when there was an occasional bump, he would jump slightly with the board to get over, with as little impact on the board as possible.  We went for about a mile and a half, with me just kind of coasting on the bike and not working up much of a sweat.  In contrast, as we were coming back, I noticed that Joseph was definitely working up a sweat.  I realized that pushing off and gaining momentum on a long board can be quite the anaerobic exercise!  
   Somehow I found myself on the long board and Joseph on the bike.  He was a great instructor,  telling me how to push off and how to line up my feet.  I found out that indeed, it takes a lot of work to push off and obtain a workable speed.  Having some sense of balance is certainly key.  I longed to be as good as my son and be able to glide gracefully along, looking so nonchalant, as if it were effortless.  Unfortunately, my movements were rather choppy and spastic, more akin to an old-time silent picture movie, where all the actors look robotic.  I would obtain a glide for all of  2 feet and find that I needed to once again push for momentum.  I hadn't been doing it for even 10 minutes, and I was sweating like a pig.  And darn those bumps where roots from the trees along the path extend out under the trail and break up the asphalt.  Somehow you need to clear those!  Joseph did so effortlessly, and when he told me to just go over them instead of getting off the board and walk across, I obediently attempted to do just that.  Unfortunately, I was not as successful as Joseph.  My board seemed to catch on the jagged lip of the bump and just stalled out.  I, on the other hand, lurched awkwardly forward, landing in an incredibly awkward and painful position, my left leg twisted under me going one direction and my right leg going in the opposite direction.  Crap!  Not my bad knee, the one I have been babying along for 2 or 3 years now, after a previous, equally awkward fall on the ski slopes.  It has never healed back to its original, healthy state.  Now, here I was, with a re-injury and in my mind, probably more serious.  I lay there on the pavement yelping and crying in misery and Joseph standing there in dismay and concern.  I had the luxury of laying there to collect myself without any passers by.  I would have gotten up quickly just because of embarrassment if anyone had come by!  After a few minutes I got up and dusted myself off, hopped on the bike and off we went. 
    We stopped on the way home to say hello to some horses and when I got off the bike, my leg wouldn't support me and kept buckling under my weight.  Not a good sign!  
    It is the day after the event and I haven't been out of my pj's all day.  I didn't walk the dog and I lounged around in bed reading, after I was served breakfast in bed, which was definitely a perk of the whole unfortunate episode.  Thankfully, I have one more day to recover before the work week begins.  Hopefully nothing got torn and I will be back to full throttle soon!
   But what this is telling me is that my days of reckless abandonment with trying new things may be almost over.  I want to keep the mobility I have and not wreck the great quality of life I enjoy.  I have to think of the consequences more than the immediate gratification I might have when trying fun and exciting physical challenges.  It's rather sad to come to that point and a far cry from when I got on the ski slope for the first time.  (Wow, another story for another time!)  I'm glad that it was with Joseph when the realization arrived.  But never say never!  Even now, I feel the need to prove myself.  I like the board I found above!  Ironically, they are called 'Old Lady Skate Boards'.  I can tell you one thing, I'd rather be the old lady riding the board than the old lady ruining other people's fun, like this lady!    Stay safe!  Live life to the fullest but be wise!

K coop and Judi Oyama Hawaii Photo Dano

Monday, February 28, 2011

Goodbye February

This month has been quite the month.  It was bitterly cold during the first part of the month, then we had Valentine's Day, then President's Day, the Academy Awards, and now it is over.  Today, it was approaching 50 degrees and the sun was out, so I hauled out my bike and took a beautiful ride on the river trail!  Ah, sun..giver of life!  But as with everything, moderation.  Sadly, the dilemma we are always fighting.  I think that this quote by Max Muller fits today and this month in general, "A flower cannot bloom without sunshine and a man cannot live without love."  So as February leaves us, it is a reminder to me of two things I cannot live too long without--sunshine and love!  And this February, I'm grateful that I have no shortage of either one.  

I've been wanting for a long time to share some of the poems of my late maternal grandmother, Helen MacDonald Livingston.  She was a wonderful woman, whom I adored as a child.  Before she left us, she left behind beautiful writings. Her poetry speaks to me today more than ever.  Here are two of her poems - one about sunshine and one about love!

                Message Of Spring
Have you heard the song of the meadow lark?
Do list(en) to the message it brings!
With the first warm rays of the sun, hark, hark!
Hear it sing.  It is spring, Oh! It's spring.
A message of spring, the meadow lark brings
It pours forth from its liquid throat,
And where 'er it rings there isn't a thing
But what responds to its joyous note.
The sun peeks out a little more to hear,
The sprouts of grass stir beneath the green,
And perhaps the spring herself loses fear
And trips out to greet the rapturous sound.
So list(en) yourself for the meadow lark's song
And list(en) to the message it brings,
And you will be filled before very long, 
with the wonderful sunshine of spring!

             Love's Coming (or Oscar Night 2011)
 Love comes to some in crimson gown
'Neath brilliant lights of dazzeling town,
With blaring bands, and pomp and show
That she has come, she lets all know.

Love comes to some 'neath country trees.
Her step is muffled by the breeze.
I really can't say what she'd wear.
One hardly knows that she is there.

Tho' some would like the love in red,
I'd choose the quiet one instead:
The love that has quaint, quiet ways.
I think it is the love that stays...

But my, aren't these dresses beautiful?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ice Is Nice (When You Aren't Bulldozed By It!)

We've had some strange and epic weather all around the U.S. this year.  Mainly record-breaking snowfall and flooding!  Utah was comparatively tame in comparison.   But we did have some really cold temperatures in January and the snow fell in abundance. And then this!  On Wednesday, February 16th, high winds with gusts of about 50 miles per hour blowing over Utah Lake, caused the ice to blow to shore and pile up on the dike and over the moat!  Within 5 minutes the ice had piled up 35 - 40 feet high!   It even caused $5,000 damage to a man's vehicle that was parked where the ice was piling up.  At least he got to it before it was totally destroyed.  Read about it here!
Anyway, we took a little time over the President's Day weekend to go take a look for ourselves at what hasn't happened in over 25 years to this area of the lake, according to old-timers.  Here's what we found!  We had a lot of fun climbing around on the ice and it made for some fun shots!
Chunks of ice blown up on the dike
Cars will have to wait until summer to drive on this road

As for me, I hope we've seen the last of the cold weather.  Three months of really cold weather is all I'm good for.  Before too long, I'll be whining about moving to St. George during the winter! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The First Week

Our first week as full-time parents to my 14-year old son has come and gone.  Let me tell you there were some doozies!  First of all, he eats a ton.  We are not used to cooking so much food!  It's a full breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am so grateful that DH has started to take cooking to the next level and really enjoys it!  His cooking is so much appreciated because I leave for work at 7:30 and come home at 3:30.  I am pretty tired after dealing with 6 or 7 at-risk boys at Independence HS.  We had BLT's for breakfast this morning, the best fried potatoes yesterday morning and banana pancakes the morning before. It was hecka good!!!

Another thing is that Joseph has a lot of catching up to do academically.  He has missed long periods of school for virtually every year of school since kindergarten.  And while he is very intelligent, he doesn't understand some of the math concepts that he should have known in elementary school.  So there is a lot of catch-up to do.  That is another thing that DH has so unselfishly done.  Every single night he has had to help Joseph with his homework and help him to understand what he isn't understanding at school.  This means that first he has to understand the math himself.  (Fortunately, it is only math that seems to be the thing that is giving Joseph the problems.)  So first he is going over it himself to make sure he gets it and then he tries to explain it to Joseph.  One night it took 3 hours to get his homework right. So while Joseph got off to a rocky start and had to be put back in math, he is now starting to turn in his homework and do well on his tests.  I am optimistic that he will be able to catch up!

Apparently in Virginia, where he had been living, Joseph was used to quite a bit of freedom, taking off wherever and whenever he wanted to.  He lived in a very small rural area, with lots of forest and wooded areas.  He and his dog, Shadow, would go exploring a lot.  This cannot happen here, because there is so much to do after school and only so much time to do it in.  One day, Joseph didn't come home.  After an hour, I decided to go looking for him.  I was worried that he had missed the bus and had forgotten our number and had started out walking himself.  I drove around and ended up at the school and patrolled the deserted halls but didn't find him.  I called a couple of other boys' moms to see if they had seen him, but they hadn't.  Finally, after almost two hours, he walked in the house, followed by two boys.  They had gotten off at the other kid's bus stop and had gone to his house, hung out, gone to the second kid's house, hung out, and now they were at our house, ready to see what was here.  So we had a little chat about that.  

He is used to going to bed whenever he wants and so where it should only take him 30 minutes to complete a shower, brush his teeth and get to bed, it takes him up to an hour and a half to get it all done.  We have to stay on top of him constantly to keep him focused and on time.  
I honestly have to say, I couldn't do it if I didn't have DH helping and participating - fully committed and engaged to what we are focusing on:  helping Joseph to succeed this year in school.  But having him here is so wonderful.  He brings such a great spirit to our home.  He is so funny. He is so fresh.  He wants to accomplish things but he needs our loving help and support.  In turn, we need his sweet ways and innocent sense of adventure.  He just loves our dog, Evee.  It gives us a new sense of purpose. I am just tickled pink.  I only hope that it can continue on, but I'm not sure.  It will be mostly up to him if he chooses to stay.  Maybe this routine is too structured for him.  He has been left to do virtually everything on his own his whole life--with no routine, no discipline (except by his older brother--Yikes!), and no stability (always moving around).  I hope that he will like it here and realize that what he can get here is stability, routine, discipline and encouragement.  So far, so good!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A 6 Foot 200 Pound Miracle

Sometimes things that you have hoped and prayed for, and finally accepted that thing as a 'no' answer, happen.  And they happen suddenly.  So suddenly, in fact, that you wonder whether or not you are dreaming, or, strangely, if you are even up to the blessing that you were asking for in the first place. 

Let it suffice to say that my son, Joseph, separated from me at 19 months of age, and who I have dreamed, longed for, cried and prayed would one day be reunited with me for longer than 5 weeks once a year, came from Virginia to live with us to finish out his school year.  He came this last Saturday and enrolled in school today.  I've known that he would be here for all of one week now.  It is no less a miracle than turning water into wine as far as I'm concerned.  

He has a lot of things he needs to get caught up on, a lot of things he doesn't know, some things that need to be unlearned.  But there are a lot of things he knows, too.  I know what a special boy he is. Yes, he just turned 14--rather late in the game for a mother's influence to be felt at it's most significant.  But, nonetheless, I think I'm up for it!  And I know he is too!  So here's to the school year!  Wish us luck!  I haven't been a full-time mom in quite awhile now!
First day of School

Unpacking and getting his room organized

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Viktoriya, My Teacher, My Friend, Last Chapter

It has been a sad and difficult time for the friends and family of Viktoriya Shershnova.  Seeing her suffer in the way that she did the last 20 months after her horrific car crash was more tortuous for her loved ones than for her.  She went from being a vivacious, vibrant, loving mom and famous personality to a shadow of what she was, totally dependent upon the mercies of hopefully kind caretakers at the care facility at which she stayed. 

 I felt so fortunate to have been able to visit her on a regular basis during a portion of that time.  It was a privilege to be able to put her favorite lotion on her arms and legs and put chapstick on her parched lips.  She was able to pay attention and communicate a little bit.  She loved her face rubbed and her hands rubbed.  She would get a sweet peaceful little smile on her face when she was well enough to enjoy it. But she was in lots of discomfort and often communicated that as well by her looks of sadness and pain.
I remember the Christmas of 2009 when I scheduled my singing group, 'Friends And Neighbors', to go and perform their annual Christmas Performance at her care facility.  I had it put on the facility event calender and reserved the main hall and called ahead the day before we came to make sure that Viktoriya was able to be in attendance.  Despite all of that, the day we arrived, they weren't going to bring her out to see the performance because she wasn't ready and they said she didn't have a bed or chair that could accommodate her in the main area.  They were pretty much telling me that we could perform, but Viktoriya wouldn't be there.  
 Now this post isn't about me, but when they told me that Viktoriya wouldn't be coming out, the stubborn Helena welled up in me.  This is the stubborn me that has been through many a hardship and tragedy and has refused to back down and refused to let someone else tell me what I can or can't do, just because they think they can.  I  had 9 very busy women, my own Dad and son with me and here was this floor nurse telling me that we couldn't do what we came to do.  That wasn't happening.  I went throughout the whole facility, talking to every and any person that looked like they had any kind of influence. I also told the staff that we wouldn't be performing until Viktoriya came out and that we were prepared to wait.  And wait we did.  Finally Viktoriya was rolled out after about 30 minutes and we went on with the performance.  It was a special time for me because this was the Christmas present I was able to give her to show her how much I love her.  I will always appreciate the women of 'Friends and Neighbors' for driving the 50 mile round trip and patiently waiting until Viktoriya could listen to us on their busiest of Saturdays to do this for Viktoriya.  They truly showed that neighbors and friends are also the angels among us. 
 The last time I saw her, I felt like I wanted to have a picture taken with her.  It was amazing because she seemed really lucid and content that day.  When I got out the camera, she actually acted like she knew what I was doing and even smiled when the attendant said "1-2-3 smile"! This is my last special memory of Viktoriya. 

On Saturday, January 15th, I got a call from a bellydance friend who told me the sad news.  Viktoriya had passed away on Friday.  Apparently, she had been doing well and then one of the nurses checked on her and she had quit breathing.  They resuscitated her, but she couldn't breathe on her own. She finally quietly passed away.
 The funeral was very simple but well-attended.  Her daughter, Nikol, gave a simple but beautifully heartfelt eulogy about her mother.  Through her tears, she talked about how she had always admired her mom and hoped that someday she could be as beautiful as she was.  She spoke of how her mother had many trials, but always told her and her sister, Jessica, that she wouldn't trade it because she had her two girls.  She told about how every night she would come in and kiss her and tell her that she loved her.  She spoke of the special look she got in her eyes that made her know that she meant it. 
  Another person who spoke was Sarah Brimhall, one of Viktoriya's best friends and who was very close to her daughters, as well.  She had been one of her first students here in Utah.  Viktoriya had taken a special interest in Sarah, like she did so many, and had an open door to her any time she wanted.   Sarah had been with Viktoriya the day before her accident and spoke of how she was literally glowing with good health and happiness.  There is no doubt that she was an extremely beautiful woman on the outside.  But what is even more extraordinary is how beautiful she was on the inside and how much love she had for so many people.  
  I deem myself a fortunate person indeed to have known such a wonderful person as Viktoriya and call her my friend.  We had many heartfelt conversations and had a personal understanding of one another.  I know that her progression is continuing in Heaven and that her understanding is growing by leaps and bounds.  What she couldn't comprehend here on earth, will all be made clear in the world beyond.  Viktoriya's life helped me understand the limitless love our Father in Heaven has for each one of his sons and daughters and the mercy that he has extended us in our individual journeys of progression and knowledge in this life.  It is through his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are able to look with hope and joy toward the life after this one.
 So, Viktoriya, here is my final update on your life and I hope that all who knew you will find peace and know you found rest and joy in the loving arms of those who were waiting to greet you.  God be with you until we meet again!

At the funeral with another one of Viktoriya's dear friends
Some of the flowers at her funeral

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Good Week's Work!

It's been a nice week at work.  I work at a remedial high school in one of the 3 behavior units for students who also qualify for Individualized Education Plans (IEP's).  I work with Troy Hulse, who has been working for a long time with at-risk boys.  He is very good and has a lot of experience with this population.  This is the 2nd year he has actually been in a contained classroom, since before that time he worked out in the field, leading work crews for these same students.  He actually requested me from another classroom I had been working in, probably partially because I am a female and with these kids, it's imperative that they learn how to work respectfully with males and females, alike.  It's a real struggle for them to do that most of the time--just be respectful.  There are several obvious reasons why that is so and probably many more less clear cut explanations.  For one thing, it is society in general that implicitly condones the disrespect of women, objectifying them into not much more than sex symbols.  A lot of these kids have not much more than the prototype of society in general to mold their philosophies and behaviors.  Another is that sometimes their sadly lacking home environments have been such that disregarding women and mistreating them is the standard.  And variously, they are fettered with the chains of physiological limitations, where their erratic behavior is symptomatic of their condition. Any kind of positive response from them must be gained by medication, precision commands with strict reinforcement follow-up!

Every day I go to work, wondering which kid is going to try and take me down with sharp sarcasm or penchant for mean humor.  It's always someone and something different.  One day I think I have made tremendous headway with someone and the next day, it's a total reversal of attitude.  Most of the time, I am able to avoid any major confrontation because I'm pretty savvy myself, when it comes to street smarts.  And, since we are on the level system, there is always the threat of dropping a level if they go too far overboard with disrespect, threats or rude comments.  

The funny thing is that I really genuinely like the boys, who range from 15 to 18, in my unit.  They all are intelligent, personable and humorous!  They can be charming when they want to be. But there is a reason why they are in my unit.  Most likely, it is because they were behaviorally out-of-control in the regular high schools that they attended.  Most of them have several misdemeanors to their credit and some have even been in detention.  So while I quite like most of these boys, I can never trust them.  I'm always on my guard.  For instance, once they actually invited me to sit with them at their table at lunch.  If they actually were to do that, it would be a great sign of status for me.  But I didn't buy it.  I declined to sit with them.  I soon found out that what they were actually planning on doing was getting up and leaving, once I had sat down with them, leaving me at the table alone.  But I'm no dummy (totally debatable, however) and saw it coming and the fact that I didn't fall for it actually got me a little more respect!  

We see some of these boys mainstreamed back into regular classes, first within the high school itself and some even get to go back to the original high schools that they were expelled from.  Basically, when I really get to be rather fond of someone and impressed with their progress, that is the time they will be leaving my class. So, I don't get too much time with a kid who is well-behaved on a consistent basis!

So why has it been a nice week?  Well, it was nice because I am getting more comfortable teaching Social Skills and Daily Oral Language Skills to them, which are the two things I teach on a daily basis.  I see them actually responding and participating in spite of themselves!  When I first started out in this unit at the beginning of November, it was a disaster.  They were bound and determined to withhold any respect or even any acknowledgment of my presence as an authority figure.  I was so grateful to have a male professional in the classroom, who laid down the law when things got out of hand.  Nevertheless, he couldn't see everything that was going on. They have extremely covert ways of trying to undermine me and my efforts to be an integral part of the class workings.   

It's been nice because one of the more dominant members of the classroom actually sincerely invited me to join them in a game during free time.   That was definitely a status jump.  Now most of the kids have decided that I am worth bringing into a recreational game outside of formal class time!  Yes!  They have actually started asking me for different pieces of advice about their understanding and clarification of the world around them, whereas before they would only ask those things to Troy.  Now, they are trusting me enough to ask me!  Major victory!  And, when I do give my opinion about different things, they will actually weigh it in their minds and give it thoughtful consideration.  They may not agree with it all the time, but they do attend to it!  Small though these things may seem, in the realm of at-risk youth, it is huge.  They have grown up with many different obstacles and at the forefront is the ability to trust or the permission to respect adults in their lives.  For me, it's one thing for a young person who has had every opportunity and encouragement to render me some good faith.  But for someone who has not had such assistance, it is the best feeling ever to have them hesitantly at first, extend the hand of friendship and trust.  Maybe then, influence for good can be had~and that's what brings me great satisfaction!  I hope that you have a great week in whatever you are doing, because we all have immense capacity to make the world around us a little better because of what we do!  What do  you consider to be a good week at "work"?