"Men are that they might have joy..."

Happiness comes in small moments of laughter and surprise. Joy is a destination - something that we reach after all of the lessons have been learned, and blessings counted. This is my journey to joy, one baby step at a time...

Friday, March 30, 2012


When I was younger and surrounded by all of my ducklings, their friends, cousins, and various neighborhood stragglers, I looked forward to midnight, when everyone had finally fallen asleep and the house would grow quiet.  I would occasionally sneak out onto the front porch to take full advantage of the night's peaceful solitude.  (Tyler once bought me a sign that said "Raising kids is like being pecked to death by a duck!")

Then they were all teenagers, and I would look forward to quiet - plain and simple.

Then they moved out, and the quiet was deafening.  I roamed the house looking for something to do or someone to talk to.  Yes, Mike was there, but he'd been there before, too, and being empty nesters was a completely different living experience.

The beauty of the human spirit is that we adapt, and what seems incomprehensible one day becomes ordinary the next.  My evenings and weekends are often filled with noise of the next generation of ducklings in our family, but sometimes they are silent, too.  Learning to love the silence was a growing experience, giving new meaning to "a time for every season under heaven."

Thursday, March 29, 2012


My son Tyler served a mission in Peru for a few years.  While I pined away for him, he was having a great adventure of the Indiana Jones type, as well as the spiritual sort.  When he returned home to us he was heartbroken to leave the people there, and it took him a while to reacclimate himself to the land of plenty. 

In 2008 Tyler and I went back to Peru to experience more of the country and touch bases with the friends he left there.  One real character was Rosa, lovingly referred to by Tyler as Loco Rosa (no translation needed).

Tyler lived at Rosa's house while he was in Juliaca.  Rosa is considered fairly well off by Peruvian standards.  She's a widow with 3 grown children, was involved in politics, and owns land.  We stayed with Rosa for about a week, and toured Cuzco with her, including Pissaq and Machu Picchu (and Wayna Pucchu!).  By American standards, Rosa and her family live in poverty.  Rosa is a little four-foot something dynamo who scares most people.  She tried so hard to communicate with me, but my crash course in Spanish failed the moment I set foot off the plane, and we struggled.  One of my favorite moments was when I woke up and realized that the altitude sickness had finally stopped, and I could eat breakfast.  I was so excited, and started using American Sign Language without realizing it, trying to tell her that I could eat (feeding guests is a privilege to them).  She got very excited, and ran up the hall, returning with toothpaste.  Huh?  Because of my hand gestures, she thought I was telling her I wanted to brush my teeth.  I laughed so hard and loud that Tyler came running out of his room to see what the ruckus was about.  When I finally spit out what had happened and he translated for Rosa, we all got quite a laugh out of that. 

There was very little language exchanged between me, Rosa and her family because of the language barrier, but the tears and hugs when we got on the bus to leave them needed no translation, and the bond forged between our families lives on. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


My sisters and I love to read novels.  We like romances, mysteries, historical fiction, vampires, series, young adult fiction.  You name it.  I'd like to say that we only read the best in what's out there, but to be honest, we just like to be entertained and taken away for awhile.  Now that our daughters are grown, they have also joined our passion for a good read.

We have joked in the past about buying a small condo or renting an apartment for our book club.  No one could use it unless their intention was to sit around and read, preferably in jammies and slippers, maybe have some snacks, and talk about books.  I remember one year the three of us were at a parade of homes touring huge, too expensive residences.  Each one had a library-type nook in them, and we decided that we needed a club house for our reading club. 

I've been thinking recently about the club house again.  We really do need one.  I imagine it lined with bookcases containing all of the books we've read, sectioned off by genre or age group.  There's a fireplace for cozy winter nights, smelly candles, delivery menus tacked to a bulletin board, and cushion covered couches to sink into.  Elizabeth can make the quilts for us to wrap up in, I'll do some artwork for the walls, and Tina can bring the snacks.  Then, as each of the girls in the family turn 16, they can be inducted into the club and receive a key to the secret location...

What makes this so alluring?  Maybe it's the idea of a physical escape to go along with the mental escape that a good book provides.  Or is it that all of the books we read feature a woman who rises from the ashes and kicks her antagonist in the rear?  Maybe I just miss my sisters.

I have a camper.  Maybe the three of us should just redecorate it with some girlie fabrics and colors, park it in the back yard, and put up a sign that says "Private, no boys allowed."

Friday, March 23, 2012


One of my favorite movies is Hope Floats.  I liked it before I saw it, because the title is profound.  Hope floats, no matter how deep the ocean of despair, anguish, mourning, or sorrow, just like a magic bubble hope will work its way to the surface of our consciousness and bob into view like a bouy. 

Then I watched the movie, and I liked it even more.  Sandra Bullock's character is an aging 'queen of corn' prom queen whose husband has cheated on her, humiliated her on national television, and sent her packing to her home town and parents to lick her wounds.  Her daughter is a spunky kid who wants her Dad, and can't understand her Mother's inability to cope.  Grandma is a taxidermist who is trying to hold her family emotionally together, and the little cousin who lives with them hides his feeling of abandonment behind silly costumes.  Toss in Harry Connick Jr. in all his handsome glory and theme song, and you've got a blockbuster.  Through all of the turmoil and angst, the Grandmother reminds them that Hope Floats, and will get them through it.

I read a quote from an Emily Dickensen poem today while doing some studying:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all...

What exactly is Hope?  I've been thinking about this all day today.  I think hope is that one shred of joy buried in our soul that never dies, no matter what struggles pile up on top of us and threaten to eat us alive.  It may get buried beneath earthly trials and daily disappointment, and is often out of sight for a time, but hope is always working its way to the surface ready to remind us of all that we have and all the amazing things that can be.  Hope is ultimately what makes the hard times bearable, because everything good in life that is worth having is something that we have hoped for in the past, or are hoping for our future.

It just floats.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


The girlies in my family are a tad vampire obsessed (well, most of them).  We all love a good story, especially the tales that contain some mystery, monsters, and romance!  Having things to share and enjoy together, even silly ones, is a great blessing in families.  My three granddaughters have been taken with the Twilight saga phenomenom, and are all firmly planted on the side of Team Edward.  (No, they have not watched all of the movies, they just like them.)

I recently saw just how much children internalize what they see and hear:

Beautiful Paige (4) was having a hard day at Grandma's house, and our conversation went something like this:

Paige:  "Grandma, tell Amber to give me the Belle doll - I want to use it!"

Me:  "Paigey, Amber is already using that one.   Here are 5 other dolls you can use, you can have all of them."


Me: "Paigey, settle down, it's OK.   There are lots of dolls to play with.   It hurts people's feelings when you take what they are playing with."  (Aren't I such a sweet Grandma?)

Paige: Throws herself around, knocks over the chair, starts screaming words I don't understand.
Me:  Hugs, "Oh Paigey, let's calm down."

Paige:  "LET GO OF ME!   [Insert showing of fangs and hissing here.]   YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE!   DON'T TOUCH ME!"

Me:  "Okay......"

Then she falls asleep.   Where's Edward when I need him?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


We moved to Portland when I was 13.  The landscape was so different from Kodiak, and the Bay Area before that.  It was early Fall, and the streets were lined with intense gold and rusty red leafed trees, rhododendrons were still blooming, and it was just - picturesque.  What really took my breath away, though, was the arrival of Spring.  If you do not live in the Pacific Northwest, you can't quite understand that anticipation of Spring (unless you live in Antarctica, of course, because you don't have Spring).  It rains in Portland from late Fall through ... today is March 21, it snowed this morning, and now it's raining again.  Spring often gets around to Portland about the same time as the rest of the United States is enjoying early Summer.  This is agreeable for vampires, but not so enjoyable for me.

The first Spring in Portland was breathtaking.  Since the sunshine comes in bits and pieces it's always a surprise, and because of the 'lush' habitat, all sorts of amazing flowers, bulbs and shrubs come to life all at once.

I still remember the first time I saw a peony plant.  I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and still have that reaction to them.  Peonies are like a blessing we receive for enduring the winter.  Sort of like the blessing we receive after enduring a hardship or trial.  Sometimes the blessing comes in the form of relief, sometimes peace, but it always comes.  The Winter may be grey, but with a little luck and patience, Spring will eventually come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS (12) - Fishy Rituals

Living it the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we are just a few hours away from the Pacific Ocean.  Going to the beach has provided a lifetime of memories and good times spent with family and friends.  One of the little rituals we have enjoyed over the years is stopping off at Karla's Smokehouse in Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast.  If you don't know what you are looking for, you'll drive right past it, but Karla's is a true Oregon treasure. 

We've taken our children there, and everyone but Sharon has shared the Karla's experience with all of their friends and family as well.  (Sharon thinks there is no good use for fish and that God made a mistake when he created them.)  A few years ago, during the week before Tyler and America's wedding, Tyler and I shared the Karla's experience with the Ruggieri's who were visiting from Illinois.  We were running late (Karla's closes up early), and I called the smokehouse from the car.  I explained what we were doing, and they stayed open until we got there are were able to share one of our favorite rituals with our new family members. 

One summer when the kids were younger, I decided to play hooky for a day and go to the beach.  I came downstairs and told the kids and Mike, "I'm going to the beach for the day.  Who's coming?"  Cricket chirping.  Really?  "Okay, then I'm going by myself.  See you later."  I picked up my purse and keys, and headed for the front door.  As I was climbing into our white minivan, Tyler (13) came flying out the door, "Wait!  I'm coming!"  He climbed in and buckled up, and we began backing out of our steep crumbly driveway.  The front door flew open again and out comes Blake. "Wait!  I want to drive!"  Blake had his learner's permit, and I thought this was a good idea.  I was wrong!

He was doing a good job once we got on the freeway, because it was a fairly clear time of day, but when we hit the twists and turns of highway 24, that was a different story.  He was having such a good time that I didn't want to curb his enthusiasm, and he did almost kill us once.  We eventually arrived at Rockaway Beach in one piece and pulled up to Karla's.  We hadn't brought anything else to eat with us, so we decided to just get some smoked fish, pop, and chips, and call that a meal. 

This was the first time we had been to Karla's on a Wednesday afternoon, and we were in for a treat!  Wednesdays are smoking days, and the fish had just been pulled out of the smokers.  The pink salmon and snowy halibut was warm and dripping with juice.  It was like eating bacon, alot of it!

We took our treasures down to the shore and ate one of the best meals I've ever had.  Was it because it was from Karla's, or because I was on a surprise holiday with my two teenage boys?  Maybe it was a bit of both.  Sharing rituals and having traditions makes memories that just seem a bit more vivid.

We scorched ourselves in the sun and decided that we didn't want to go home, so we went to Safeway and bought deodorant and a toothbrush.  We found a motel with a swimming pool, and I called Mike to let him know we weren't coming home.  He was ... annoyed.

The next day we went back to Karla's to replenish our stash, and spent the day on the beach enjoying the sunshine and one another.  When we were rounding the corner and headed for the driveway, I called Mike again to say we had decided not to come home, were staying at the beach.  We listened to him complaining while we pulled into the driveway, and walked into the house.

Best. Hooky. Ever.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS (11): Sea Salt Caramels

What is it that makes someone crave a particular food?  Pregnant women crave pickles - I seriously doubt they are having a vinegar deficiency causing this craving.  Babies crave food of any sort.  I watched 10 month old Cooper inhale an adult size plate of lazagna, salad and roll, and then a piece of cake.  I know for a fact that he'd just had a jar of baby food because I could smell the pureed vegetables still on his breath. 

I crave sea salted caramels.  It's gross, really.  Take a perfect, gooey golden caramel, dip it in beautiful, dark chocolate, and then dump salt on the top?  Not ordinary salt.  Sea Salt.  It makes no sense, but there you have it.  They just taste delicious - at least I think they taste delicious.  Is it because someone was paid to tell me it was delicious, and so I believed them?  Is it because I have so many fond memories of time spent at the beach? 

There are 'break out novels' that sell a million copies that I've read, and haven't necessarily thought too much of them, but word of mouth has turned them into household names.  There are 'blockbuster' movies that get all of the award nominations ("Hugo"), that didn't bust any of my blocks when I watched them.  Does the hype make them amazing, or are they amazing, and I just don't get it? 

Is a Starbucks $5.00 coffee really better than the $1.00 coffee at a corner coffee shop, or does the green logo magically infuse special flavor through the side of the paper cup?   During the sixties, we all owned something with a school bus yellow smiley face on it.  Millions of dollars were made off of that image.  I was desperate to have smiley face pee chees for school. 

So back to the sea salted caramels.  I love them.  They make me feel good.  Just like going to the beach, sea salt and all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (10): An Ice Cold Bottle of Coke

The summer sun was directly overhead and sizzling the pavement beneath the wheels of our green Dodge station wagon.  Sharon (7), Blake (5) and Tyler (3) were in the back seat, and Roxanne (2), our golden retriever, was panting away in the back with an injured foot.  Our car had no air conditioning, so we were melting fast as I cruised up the freeway off ramp and came to a stop on our way to the veterinary clinic. 

The car quickly filled with the smell of moist rust just as the tell-tale Ssssssssssss sound hissed from the heat vents, white steam boiled out from the hood, and the engine died.  Crap. 

I tried to turn the car back on, but it wasn't meant to be.  A maniac behind me started honking his horn like a mad man, and I could see him screaming at me to get out of the way.  Let's see, if I put all 3 barefoot little kids on the road behind the car to push, and tied the lame dog to the front with the jumper cables to pull - no, that's not going to work.  Three lights later, I was still sitting there, but now I was crying, half in distress, and half in anger at the lack of good samaritans on duty.

Finally a couple of men showed up at my window and told me to put the car in neutral.  They pushed me off the road and around the corner, and right up into the yard of the first house on the right!  Crap.

I was afraid to leave the kids in the car while I went up to knock on the door, but was afraid to take them (still barefoot) up to the door of a killer's house, too.  I opted to leave them sitting in the car with a lame dog to protect them. 

I knocked on the door, and a little old man opened it and said, "Are you the person whose car is sitting in my front yard?"  Why, yes I am!  We had apparently scared him to death, and he had been sneaking peeks at us through his curtains.  I explained our situation, and asked if I could use his phone (no cell phone in those days folks).  He glared at the kids and dog in the car, looked me up and down, thought about it for a minute, and then drug his phone out on to the front porch for me to use. 

While I was busy calling a rescuer, the old man disappeared into the back part of his house.  I finished up, yelled "Thank you!" and closed his front door. 

I climbed back in the car and told the kids we were going to be in for a long wait, but Dad was on the way.  "We're hot!"  "Roxanne's breath stinks!"  "Wah Wah!" 

I turned back around and the little old man was sticking his head in my window - Yikes!  Maybe he is a killer!  "I thought those kids might be a tad hot in there.  And that dog looks hot too." 

"Oh, we're okay, thanks anyway."  He disappeared back into his house again.

The kids went ballistic.  "We are thirsty!  We are not okay!"  Crap.

A few minutes later scary old man came back to the window with an icy bottle of Coke, a bag of Hershey's miniatures, and a tupperware container of water for Roxanne.  He just handed them to me and walked away.

Dilemma #1:  If I only give the kids 1 piece of candy like a responsible mother, the rest will melt into a puddle in the car.  So I gave them the whole bag and told them to eat them very fast.

Dilemma #2:  If the dog drank the water, she was going to pee in the back of the car because there was something wrong with her foot, and there was no way I was letting her out beside a busy freeway.  So I gave her the water anyway and held my breath (and eventually my nose).

Dilemma #3:  We don't give our kids caffeine.  Ever.  EVER.  They were so thirsty after downing a bag of chocolate, that I let them drink the icy Coke.  And they were immediately bouncing all over the car like lunatics.  Crap.

Mike eventually showed up in a borrowed car and got us home.

The green station wagon sat in our driveway for at least a year, until it got towed while we were on vacation, which made me very happy.

Thanks scary old man!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS (9): Gas Station Roses

My husband has taken some interesting jobs in his lifetime.  While Mike was busy in school and I was busy popping out babies, he had to be creative with his employment.  Among the most 'interesting' was when he worked for the coroner's picking up dead bodies, and when he subsidized our income as a limousine driver. 

Because of his long work and school schedule during those years, he often came home in the wee hours of the morning.  I would occasionally wake up to find a single rose, wrapped in clear cellophane with a paper ribbon bow, sitting in a glass of water on my dresser or on the dining room table.  These were those roses that they sell at the register inside of gas stations that Mike would pick up when he was putting gas in the car. 

At first I teased Mike about bringing me 'gas station roses.'  Every girl likes to be given flowers - it's just one of those romantic things that we all enjoy.  But receiving a $2.99 flower that sits in a container next to variety packs of condoms, gum, and those tiny 5 hour energy drink bottles seemed funny at the time.  I suspect their real purpose was for the knuckleheads who thought that buying one for their date would help them get lucky. 

Mike eventually figured out that ordering flowers got him more brownie points, and I eventually stopped receiving my gas station roses.  It was a bittersweet upgrade, though.  Receiving a designer bouquet that takes thought and planning is always a special treat, but maybe not quite as special as the spontaneous presentation of a single flower picked up at the end of a grueling day of school and work when most husbands would be thinking of themselves. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

COUNTING MY BLESSINGS (8): Inquiring Minds

"What does 'realize' mean," one of the grandkids asked me this past week when I used it in a sentence.  "It means ... well, it means ... um, to figure something out."  "Oh, why didn't you say that?"

I remember when every sentence contained something new to think about, and television and movies opened up new worlds full of exciting of ideas.  Then I got old-ish, and it seems like there just isn't that much new and shiny around.  But that's not really true. 

In addition to conventional education, over the years I have taken or taught workshops and courses in art, piano, textiles, knitting, spinning, leadership, communication, diversity, operational management, scrapbooking, child-rearing, quilting, cooking, dog training, and a potpourri of other subjects.  I'm fairly sure my appetite for learning comes from my Mom, who was always teaching herself how to do the next great thing.  (She once taught herself how to make Victorian doll house furniture from dog food cans.)  Right now she's writing a cooking course for children.  She heard about e-publishing, and is all worked up about that.

If my brain is like a computer, then my hard drive is going to eventually run out of space or memory.  Unless someone invents a flash drive that plugs into my ear or a way to connect an external hard drive so that I can download some of that data, I wonder if I should begin rationing what I fill my mind with? 

Not a chance.  I'll just keep learning and trying new things until an upgrade comes out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


What did people do before the age of books for escape?  Did they take their tallow candles into caves and draw pictures, then call all of their friends with their horns to share beef jerky and tell them a story?  Did they pass around scrolls filled with tales of danger and romance?  Everyone presumes that ancient cave drawings are records of actual history; what if they aren't?  What if someone was bored, couldn't sleep, or ate too much buffalo and had indigestion.  Maybe she got out her mortar and pestle, ground up some leaves and spices, stirred in some spit and just started drawing, imagining a steamy love affair, mystical creatures and huge mythical animals?  (Wait, has Stephanie Meyers been climbing around in caves??)

I suppose that in the absence of books, friends got together to spin thread for cloth and gossiped about their cavemen and neighbors.  I wonder what people from those times would think of all of the literature of today.  I suspect a juicy piece of fiction would have been considered sorcery at worst, a book of lies at best.

A well written novel filled with suspense, unrequited love, or outright terror transports me somewhere else for awhile.  I love books.  I love the smell of a new book, the feel of the paper and shiny cover in my hands, and the anticipation when I open the front cover and prepare to dive in.  My love affair with fiction started with Nancy Drew and all of her mysterious adventures, with the handsome Ned making my pre-teen heart skip a beat.

Stephen King came next, but I spent so many sleepless nights (including one night at the age of 18 rolled up on the end of my parent's bed after finishing The Shining) that I swore off the really scary stuff.  I spent a year or so immersed in the life and times of the women who live inside the pages Victoria Holt novels, read every Mary Higgins Clark who-done-it, and still think about by the lives and traumas of the protagonists in Jodi Piccoult's observations of today's societal dilemmas.  I truly love Anne (of Green Gables), and think Jane Austen is one of the best story tellers of all.

My heroes aren't the characters I've become for a few days.  They are the talented magicians whose imaginations are so vivid, that their words can transport me out of myself for a time.  Here's the thing about fiction.  I don't have to agree or disagree with anything written.  I'm not obligated to learn anything from it.  I get to love the bad boys, hate the perfect girls, and hide behind someone when I'm scared. 

So, on Friday night, you can find me happily tucked into bed with a nice fat book of lies, and maybe a couple of sea salt chocolate caramels, just in case I get hungry.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I was first exposed to knitting when I was three or four years old.  My brother, Rocky, and I were only 14 months apart, and I suspect Mom needed a bit of a break.  I remember the two of us sitting on the floor under the dining room table, waiting for Mom to knit tiny little squares out of soft white yarn and toss them under the table to us.  We played for hours with our little knitted treasures.

There is something so therapeutic about knitting needles sliding in and out of stitches making that whisk! whisk! sound, pulling strands of soft wool through my fingers.  Is it the rhythm of movement or the monotomy of counting the stitches?  I don't know, but I can knit happily for hours, and have become one of 'those' people who can be seen knitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office, or while I'm visiting with friends.  Basically, if it's not rude or dangerous, I whip out my knitting at any opportunity.  I've even turned the heel of a sock while sitting dead in the water in rush hour traffic (I did put the car in park first). 

Does this make me a knit geek?  Maybe it pushes me over the cliff into true granny-dom.  No problem.  Knit one, Purl two, Knit one, Purl two ...

Friday, March 9, 2012

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (5): Saturday Treats

My brothers, sisters and I were pigs and would eat our way through every morsel of food in the house if Mom didn't ration them out.  I remember really wanting a second glass of milk, and she'd say, "Go have a glass of water."  I wanted more than one cookie, and she'd say, "Go have some celery."  Potato chips?  Forget it.  Mike was raised in a thrifty household too, and tried to ration the milk.  No one was going to ration food at my house!

When Mike and I got married, we couldn't afford to go out much.  Our grocery budget was a whopping $25 per week and so we got into the routine of having Saturday date nights at home which always included a special treat.  Once the kids came along, Saturday treats became Sunday treats, and I was religious about having those goodies on Sunday evening. 

I had no idea that other people were treat freaks until one scorching hot Sunday when I forgot to go to the grocery store the night before.  We observe the Sabbath and don't shop on Sunday, so the kids and I were fresh out of luck when I realized during church that the cupboards were bare of anything treat-worthy.  I mentioned this to my friend Sara Kirk, who was appauled.  "What are your kids going to eat today?  How can you not have treats in the house?" 

Shortly after I got home and scraped my sweaty clothes off of my eight-month pregnant body, there was a knock on the front door.  Sara stood on the front porch, grocery bag in hand.  "You can't make your kids go through Sunday with no treats," she said as she shoved the bag into my arms.  A cold six pack of rootbeer, a bag of red licorice, and a huge bag of Doritos would never taste as good as they did that day. 

When the kids started driving and dating, Sunday treats became Saturday treats again to bribe them to come home on time.  Nothing gets a teenager in by curfew like a pan of hot Rhodes cinnamon rolls. 

Saturdays nights often arrive now with no one to share them with.  But a pan of warm Rhodes rolls wafting the heady scent of cinnamon through the house warms my heart with memories.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (4): All Present and Accounted For

Do you remember when we would sit in school and the teacher would take role?  “Johnny?”  “Here!”  “Sally?”  “Here!”  Do they still do that? 

I used to have a recurring dream when I was raising my kids that I was sitting at a noisy dinner table with my family, and someone’s chair was empty.  I would wake up in tears with my heart racing.  Who was missing??  Where were they?!  It was horrible.  The nightmares continued until the kids grew up and started taking on lives of their own.  I think I stopped having them when Miles was about 16.  He’s my youngest, and had the privilege of being an only child for a short period of time. 

Then Miles did the unthinkable:  He enlisted in the Army and took off for boot camp right after graduation from high school.  What?  Who raised that child?  What was he thinking?  I was raised in the military and enjoy my freedom and liberty as much as the next American, but I didn’t want him to live in that environment.  Okay, I just didn’t want people shooting at him, or being mean to him, or even yelling at him.  Then he decided he would also go airborne.  That means that he jumps out of airplanes while people shoot at him.  Did I mention that there are bombs involved?

Miles’ first deployment to Iraq was by far the hardest experience I have ever endured.  It was worse than kidney stones, or my three week labor and delivery (yes, three weeks), and worse than a gall bladder attack.  I know, it was hard for him too, but he assured me that it was probably harder on me because he was busy ‘doing stuff.’  I was busy not sleeping, and 'worrying about stuff.’  I didn’t watch a single news broadcast, held my breath when I saw any military vehicles - praying they weren’t headed for my driveway, and got used to receiving an occasional 1:00 a.m. phone call that was always Miles. 

And then he came home.  Then he went to Afghanistan.  And came home.  And went again, came home, and went again. 

Miles and I had dinner at my nephew's house the last time I saw him before his final deployment.  It was physically painful to get into my car and drive away, because I kept seeing that empty chair at the table.  For some reason, this time just felt different.  I hugged him and tried not to cry, but I was not as brave as he was.  Miles said, “Mom, don’t worry.  I always come home.” 

Not all of our soldiers come home.  Miles did.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (3): Joy in the Morning

My spiritual beliefs are often what get me through the day, especially those really hard ones.  You know, the days that feel like armageddon has decided to start in my front yard.  I have those sometimes.  I'm not a patient person.  I want what I want now, especially the good stuff.  I want peace, happiness, and love at home.  I want to win the lottery.  I want world peace -- well, okay, that's bit far fetched, I'll take getting all of our troops home safe and sound.  I want struggles to have end in sight, and then actually end. 

I've always believed that we are given trials and struggles to learn patience, to learn to see the Lord's hand in our lives, and to help us to grow strong.  I'm fairly confident that I would be more than happy to grow without the trials.  I can learn to be patient without them.

One scripture that I am trying to internalized is:  "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  (Psalms 30:5.)  I think I need to make another sign to put up in my house!  Job lost everything while he waited for relief from the Lord: He lost his home and worldly possessions; he lost his family; his health -- even his mental health.  Job's response to these tragedies was:  "...For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though ... worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God...  Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him..."  Way to be patient Job!  I hope that I don't have to have worms destroy my body before I'm humble enough to feel 'joy in morning.'
We are not guaranteed that our lives will be easy, that we will not face heartache.  We are not promised that we will not be faced with tragedy or tempted by sin, or that our families will remain untouched.  But...  We are promised that if we endure our struggles well, whether in this life or the next, our trials will seem like that one night of weeping, and we will have joy in the morning. 

Yesterday, I went to bed exhausted.  Life has pooped me out.  When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with a beautiful, rare Oregon Spring Sunrise.  It was absolutely gorgeous outside, and it felt like a great big blessing handed to me on a silver platter, with my name engraved right in the middle!  I was definitely feeling joy this morning, were you?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have five amazing grandchildren who pack so much joy into my life that it pretty much bursts at the seams when they are around.  Those haters out there who think we talk about them too much are simply uneducated or jealous.  You know who you are.  You mock us behind our backs, roll your eyes when we tell you the next funny story, and pretend they are gorgeous when we show you their pictures.  Well, back off! These tiny creatures are the stuff that joy is made of.

Last week my 5 year old grandson, Zackary spent the night at our house.  We snuggled Friday night, munched on Girl Scout Thin Mints and watched Home Alone together - what a great night, especially when Kevin drops Buzz's tarantula onto the burglar's face.  All through the next day he said, "Grandma, I love you," to which I replied, "I love you too Zacky."  When he was getting ready to go home, he ran back to me, hugged my legs, and said, "Grandma, I really love you."  I said, "Zack, that's ten I love you's in one day!  I'm the luckiest Grandma ever!" 

He thought about that for a minute and said, "I meant to say it eleven times."

Monday, March 5, 2012

COUNT MY BLESSINGS (1): Butterscotch Lifesavers

I have the most amazing father. I came across a picture of him recently in his uniform when I was about 8. I remember him looking like that as if it were yesterday!

I still see him that way when I look at him now, because he has an overwhelming impact on my life every day. I'm so thankful that I am blessed with him in my life. My Dad just gets me.  He never corrects me, and I'm pretty sure he agrees with everything I say.  Even if he doesn't, he acts like he does. 

When I was about eight years old, I was running around barefoot in our family room and a sewing needle went into my big toe and broke off inside.  It eventually started to cause a nasty infection, and it was horribly painful.  My traumas always came to a head in the middle of the night.  Like when my little brother, Joey, dropped a coffee can full of pollywogs on my other big toe, and I had to go to the emergency room to have the toenail sliced open to relieve the pressure.  I still remember thrashing around in my bed in pain, and hearing Mom say, 'Gary, you're going to have to take her to the hospital.'  No!  Because we were military, Dad donned his officer's uniform and took me into the emergency room at the hospital in Oakland.  An x-ray showed the nasty thing sitting inside my toe, growing gange green and who knows what else. 

I was admitted to the hospital children's ward full of crying, scared kids who were all having surgery of some sort.  All of us were laying in these oversize cribs - not only scared, but completely humiliated.  They had all these stupid rules to make the experience as painful as possible: no visitors after 7:30 p.m., no snacks, nothing but water to drink, nothing but broth for dinner.  What was this?  Prison?

Anyway, on the night before my surgery, I was laying there crying and picking the paint off of my crib (probably containing lead) when I looked up to see a handsome officer in his navy blue dress uniform walk in the door.  I'm pretty sure that every mother sitting in that room turned and watched him walk in - he was just that impressive.  He sat down next to me and talked to me until I calmed down.  He said prayers with me before he left, and I felt better. 

As I turned on my side to go to sleep that night, my hand felt something strange under my pillow.  I knew instinctively that I'd better not let the nurses see what it was or they'd take it, and had to wait until the lights were out for the night and the rest of the screamers had gone to sleep so that I had some privacy.

My heart pounding in anticipation, I slipped a roll of butter rum lifesavers out from under my pillow - Dad's favorite!  Wow, he loved me so much!  Afraid that the nurses would confiscate my stash, I ate the entire roll, and hid the paper debris inside the pillowcase.

Next morning was surgery day.  When I woke up from anesthesia, I barfed my guts out into a plastic barf pan.  It smelled like butterscotch.

When Amid Life's Billows - Count Your Blessings

My Mom and Dad have always taught me that happiness is fleeting - but joy is eternal.  As a child, I thought that happiness and joy were one and the same, because my perspective was so short sighted.  Next year seemed like a lifetime away, and last year - well, I had no real use for last year.

I remember the day I got my first suede moccasins from Tijuana - I thought they were very cool.  That was a happy day.  They were dark brown, and very, very soft.  It was the 60's, and fringe was in, and they looked awesome with my olive green fringed purse.  The first time I left them sitting on the floor in the living room, our dog Boo Boo chewed one up, and my moment of happiness ended up in the backyard in the cool grass.

Fast forward to my wedding day.  My husband, Mike, and I were married and sealed in the LDS temple in Salt Lake.  It was a happy and overwhelming day, with friends and family there to share in our moment.  Following the ceremony, we stood facing a large mirror on the wall.  It faced an identical mirror on the wall behind us, and hanging over our heads was a shimmering crystal chandelier.  Because of the way that the mirrors and chandelier were placed, we could see iterations of ourselves sparkling forward into what seemed like forever.  The thought that we were at the beginning of something that could last forever was amazing and awe inspiring.  (Over the years, I'm sure that we have both occasionally thought:  What were we thinking??!)

Flash ahead to June 16, 1981 - and Dr. Hicks places a red, fat, screaming baby girl into my arms.  Oh!  I see what you mean, Mom!  All of that fun, laughter, and happiness up until that moment suddenly snapped into it's true perspective, and I knew true, absolute and irrevocable joy for the very first time.  No amount of vomit, poop or sleep deprivation could dampen my joyful heart.

Over the years I have felt that glimpse of joy often, and know that is my goal - to get through the struggles, heartache, and downright garbage and surround myself with people and things that take me closer to a joyful life. 

That's what this blog is for: A place to record and share moments of joy.  Want to come along for the journey? 

I read on another blog today that their family motto is "Happy Not Crappy."  I love that!  I want a sign that says that in my house.  My mother thinks crap is a bad word - I think it's awesome.  I've decided to record a year of blessings - and hope I can dedicate myself enough to post a new blessing every single day for the next 365 days.

The theme of this blog comes from the words to this song:

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed.
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear.
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

So amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all.
Count your many blessings, Angels will attend -
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.