Like a Spider Web of Frosted Lace . . .

The holiday season is coming to a close. Empty sleighs are stacked against the wall in the garage after pulling rosy cheeked children and grandchildren around on the back acre. The Christmas tree has been decorated and redecorated by dozens of tiny sticky hands. All the fudge and gingerbread has vanished. Visiting children and grandchildren are returning home leaving long tire tracks on my snowy driveway. Life will not stand still and let me hold it close enough. Like snowflakes on my tongue, the fleeting moments melt away.

Today I learned my son and daughter-in-law are expecting a brand new baby. My neighbor was married this morning and I attended a viewing for two friends at the mortuary this evening - beginnings and endings and all the precious moments in-between. Life is so dear. How do I properly thank God for the wonder of it all?

Snow is falling outside my window tonight. . . snow on snow on snow. There is a fire burning in the wood stove downstairs. The house smells of fresh baked bread. And so I pause in deepest gratitude for the richness of it all. Like a spider web of frosted lace, our lives are tenuous - a wonder and delight.


Christmas at the Baadsgaard House

Christmas at our house is always filled with good food, fun, music and all the people I love.


Mitchel the Magnificent

This is a special story written for my magnificent grandson Mitchell on his third birthday. I love you Mitch.

(When a mother learns to see the world through the eyes of a child, she will never be the same again.)

One day Mitchell woke up and rubbed his eyes. Then he heard a bear downstairs. Mitchell quickly grabbed the sword next to his bed. He listened oh so carefully. Then he heard . . . thump . . . thump . . . thump coming up the stairs.
Mitchell gripped the handle to his sword and quickly crawled under his bed as the door to his bedroom creaked open. Mitchell closed his eyes as tight as he could. Then he heard the bear thump, thump, thump through his room and into the bathroom. Mitchell listened to the bear spit into the sink. Next he heard a strange gurgling sound, another bear growl and the toilet flush.
“Well, good morning Mitchell,” his father said walking out from the bathroom. What are you doing under your bed? I’m all ready for work now. How about a hug?”
Mitchell crawled out from under his bed and walked toward his father peeking around his legs to see if the bear was still in the bathroom.
“I’ll see you at supper time,” his father said after he gave Mitchell a big bear hug.
After lunch, Mitchell was playing with his blocks upstairs when he heard a space ship land in his dining room. He rushed to his closet, grabbed his moon boots and pirate hook then sneaked over to the stair railing to steal a look at the aliens.
Mitchell saw a large black shadow drift across the wall in the dining room. Then the space ship’s engine stopped. It was quiet. That’s when Mitchell heard thump, thump, thump coming up the stairs. Mitchell dived under his bed. Before he closed his eyes he saw two fuzzy pink alien feet inching toward him. He closed his eyes as tight as he could.
All of a sudden the space ship powered up right in his bedroom. Mitchell heard the engine roar get louder and louder then closer and closer. Mitchell scrunched against the wall as tight as he could. Then suddenly it was quiet. Mitchell opened his eyes. That’s when he saw two large red beady eyes staring at him.
“Mitchell?” what are you doing under there?” his mother said dressed in her fuzzy pink bathrobe and slippers.
Mitchell didn’t say a word. He crawled out from under his bed and looked around his mother who was holding the vacuum to see if the aliens were still there.
Then Mitchell’s mother gave him a big alien hug.
“It’s time for your nap,” his mother said.
“No!” Mitchell said drawing his sword. “I have to fight the bears and aliens.”
“Oh honey, there aren’t any bears or aliens in our house. Let me tuck you in.”
Mitchell gripped his sword tight to his chest as his mother pulled off his shoes. Then he crawled under the covers on his bed and yawned.
“Even Mitchell the Magnificent needs a good nap,” his mother said brushing his hair away from his forehead and kissing him on the cheek.
After his mother left, Mitchell peeked around the room to make sure no one was still lurking in the corners. Then he yawned, closed his eyes and rolled to his side. Right then he heard bad guys getting ready for battle. Thump, thump, thump. Mitchell heard them beating on their drums.
“Mom!” Mitchell screamed.
“What do you want?” Mitchell’s mother answered as she opened his door.
“The bad guys are coming,” Mitchell said.
“There are no bad guys in this house honey. Now go to sleep,” his mother said.
“Listen,” Mitchell said. “Put your ear right here.”
That’s when his mother smiled.
“Oh,” she answered. That’s your heart beating. “You can hear it when you put your ear on your pillow. I used to think it were bad guys beating on their war drums when I was a little too.”
“You did?”
“Yes. I kept a pointy umbrella next to my bed just in case.”
“I have a sword,” Mitchell answered.
“You are so brave,” Mitchell’s mother said.
“Yes,” Mitchell answered.
“Simply magnificent!” his mother finished.
Mitchell smiled. Then he yawned, closed his eyes and went to sleep.


A Picture Perfect Christmas

Every year about this time, I thumb through the women's magazines and see their ideas for how to have a happy Christmas. The slick, ink-scented, full-color pages are always brimming with suggestions.

You can almost smell golden glazed turkeys and butter-rich pastries heaped on elegant dining room tables. The little girls are always dressed in deep plum velvets, silky white taffeta or in layers of eyelet lace and satin ribbons. The little boys are dressed in knee-length dark blue knickers with cotton white knee socks and shiny black patent leather shoes. The Christmas tress in the magazines are always decorated with dazzling lights, bright poinsettias, or delicate glass and porcelain ornaments.

When I was a young mother I used to wish I could create a picture-perfect Christmas like that. I don't wish for that any more.
Now that many of my children have grown up and left home, they often tell me what they enjoyed most about our celebrations. It is never the presents, never the fancy clothes or decorations they mention . . . it is always our simple family traditions.

We like to have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. We set a place for the Savior at our Christmas dinner table. Later we dress up and act out the nativity story together reading from the Bible. Then when it gets dark outside, we gather around our olive wood Nativity set, light a candle and turn out the lights in the room. Each person selects a piece from the nativity set and thinks about a gift they want to give Jesus. As each family member comes forward they place their piece of the nativity set next to the baby Jesus. Then they tell the group what gift they want to give the Savior that coming year. When each person has had a chance to give their gift, we sing Christmas hymns by candlelight.

A picture-perfect Christmas is a tinsel illusion. We create our own rich reality.


Moments of Christmas

December always brings closure to another year but the opening of most parental states of overwhelm. If, after all the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking, sitting through long stuffy programs, and attending an endless series of parties, you feel like you want to stop the holiday wagon and jump - stop - for if you're paying attention, something will happen to make it all worthwhile.

Once December evening when I finally finished my nightly wiping up of slop, heave-ho, and potato cement from under the dinner table, I slipped into the living room alone. All the children were scattered around the house, some yelling, some hibernating, and others imitating sumo wrestlers. I pushed the hair away from my face with my dishpan hands and took a slow, deep breath before I sat down and began quietly playing Christmas hymns on the piano. The music must have slipped through the heat vents, for one by one the children spontaneously wandered into the living room. Except for the single brass light above the piano, the room was dark. The hard wooden piano bench soon grew warm and crowded as my two-year-old snuggled up on my right side while her ten-year-old sister snuggled up on my left. Then the baby crawled across the carpet, elbowed her way through my legs, and started playing with my big toe as it bobbed up and down on the sustaining pedal. Seven-and-eight-year-old sumo wrestlers untangled themselves and tumbled into the room long enough to belt out a few tunes standing guard behind me.

You've never really heard "Joy to the World" until you've heard a seven-year-old, with total abandon and a little off key, command from the depths of his soul, "Joy to the world! The Lord is Come! Let earth receive her king! Let every heart repair him room! And saints and angels swing!"

Later when our voices were tired and squeaky, we did "Silent Night," complete with "Round John Virgin. As we rounded the corner to "Sleep in heavenly peace; Sleep in Heavenly peace," it hit: that skin-tingling, hold-your-breath moment when the magic, mystery, and wonder of Christmas was all mine to hold.

At that precise moment, it didn't matter that our budget was having a hard time stretching for our large family. It didn't matter that within seconds my "heavenly choir" would return to sumo wrestling on the living room floor. For I had learned that moments like these are fleeting. Like winter's frost, with a breath, childhood melts away. So I sighed, detached the baby from my big toe and kissed all those Junior Tabernacle Choir members on the forehead before they could pull away saying, "Yuck, kissing. I hate kissing,"

Christmas comes but once a year. With or without the mistletoe, you have to savor those priceless moments and kisses while you can.


Finding Jesus

"I can't find Jesus!" my young son said in a panic one Christmas season. "I've looked everywhere, and I can't find him!"

"What do you mean you can't find Jesus?" I asked.

"He's supposed to be right over there, but he's gone," my son said, pointing to the nativity set.

"Somebody must have been playing with him and lost him," I answered. "Just keep looking. You'll find him."

That babe in the manger was and is the hope of the world, the good news, the glad tidings.

If we just keep looking, we'll find him.


A Mother and her Son

At Christmas time I often think of Mary . . . holding her son.


Stomach Flu Christmas

My most memorable Christmas was the one I now affectionately call the stomach flu Christmas. Six weeks before that cold Christmas Eve, I had given birth to my son Jacob. This pregnancy had been particularly long and difficult because my doctor had ordered bed rest to prevent Jacob’s premature delivery. After seven pregnancies in eight years, this Christmas season found me exhausted. It seemed I didn’t have the time, health or money to do everything I thought so important for the kind of Christmas I wanted my children to have.
I truly wanted the picture-perfect Christmas I’d seen in Hollywood movies or read about in books. But a postpartum bleeding problem, a lingering infection and a house full of overactive young children all left me feeling chronically overwhelmed. After paying off the doctors and hospital, we didn’t have much money left over for gifts. I’d been sewing dolls from cloth scraps and painting blocks and toy trucks from leftover wood scraps in the wee hours between late-night feedings with my newborn son.
Then on Christmas Eve, it hit like a blast of arctic air . . . the dreaded stomach flu. All my children suddenly became violently ill. They were too young or too weak to reach the bathroom, so I rushed from bed to crib diapering, changing sheets and comforting the best I could.
Then the illness hit me just as hard. I soon found myself unable to stand without fainting – which I learned the hard way. I must have hit my head on the corner of our nightstand passing out, because my forehead was throbbing and a lump was forming when I woke up on the floor in my bedroom.
For a moment I lay motionless on the floor, paralyzed with nausea and throbbing pain. Then I tried to figure out what I should do. If I called someone for help, I would expose friends or family to the dangerous condition of the ice-covered roads and this awful illness. My husband had been out of town on a business trip and should have been home hours ago. Because he hadn’t called, I worried he might be stranded on the road somewhere or in an accident. I felt so sick and alone.
“Mom! Mom! Help me!”
I heard my children crying and retching in their rooms again.
“Dear Father in Heaven,” I prayed. “Why does everything have to be so hard, especially on Christmas Eve?”
“Mommy! I need you!”
“Please give me the strength I need to care for my children,” I prayed.
I raised my head and felt another fainting spell coming on, so I maneuvered my body into a kneeling position. If I kept my head down, I could slowly crawl from bed to bed. Hours passed with no break in sight.
Around midnight, I heard the front door open and my husband trudging toward the back of the house. I was lying in a fetal position on the floor in the hallway, remaining close to the children’s bedrooms so I could hear and respond to their needs. My newborn son was wrapped in a blanket and cradled in the bend of my body. My husband rushed into the bathroom, then to the bedroom, where he collapsed on the bed and moaned. He wouldn’t be able to help. He was as sick as the rest of us.
Moments later I heard the pendulum clock in the family room begin the first of twelve soft chimes. When the clock grew silent, I knew Christmas had come. I didn’t have the strength to put gifts under the tree and the stockings were still empty, but my children were sleeping peacefully for the first time that evening. I felt the slow gentle breaths of my tiny son on my neck. Clouds parted in the night sky just enough to let a faint bit of moonlight filter into the hallway.
“It’s Christmas,” I thought.
Then, as if someone had quietly placed a blanket fresh from the dryer all around me, I felt suddenly warm. I remembered another mother and child . . . another Christmas when everything didn’t work out as planned . . . a Christmas when all the inns were full, when the Savior of the world was born in a stable because there was no room. I knew that babe in the manger was my Savior. I knew I was loved and that I was not alone.
I will never forget the stomach flu Christmas. It taught me that life seldom works out the way we plan – and that is the wonder of it all. For only in sickness do we awaken to the gift of health – only through pain do we receive the gift of understanding. The stomach flu Christmas taught me that my Father in Heaven wants me to grow up, to understand that life is supposed to be filled with challenges, even on Christmas Eve. It taught my children that they have a mother who loves them. Perhaps that deep, abiding love was the greatest gift I had to offer.
Other Christmas Eves have come and gone with the more common, frantic preparations for that much awaited morning, but the stomach flu Christmas stands out because I know now there is joy even in sorrow . . . that the daily miracles of life, health, love and family should never be taken for granted. In the stillness of that night, I finally understood that only in darkness does the light and love of the Savior shine brightest.


Inviting Christ Into Christmas

One way to invite Christ into your Christmas celebration is to place pictures of Jesus on your Christmas tree that illustrate different moments in the Savior's life. Then as you sit around the tree in the evenings invite each family member to choose a picture and tell the story that goes with that picture.

Last night my son was telling the story of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple after he was born. We couldn't remember the names of the special man and woman he met there. This required that we open our scriptures. Telling stories about the life and mission of Jesus Christ is a beautiful way to understand the reason for the season.


Snow is Falling

Snow is falling at my home. A quiet hush . . . a holy pause. All the naked limbs of trees are dressing in anticipation . . . Christmas is near . . . the Christ child is coming.

Love is filling my heart. A quiet hush . . . a holy pause. I too am dressing in anticipation. Christmas is near . . . my Savior is coming.


Matthew and the Brazilian Emerald

Matthew and the Brazilian Emerald


Janene Baadsgaard

This is a special story
written for my amazing grandson Matthew
on his eighth birthday.
I love you Matthew.
Keep looking for treasures . . .

Once there was a boy named Matthew who was a marvel at finding treasure. He discovered shiny white rocks in his driveway, slimy snails in the bushes and blue robin eggs in a nest in a maple tree in his yard. What Matthew wanted to discover most of all was a beautiful sparkling green emerald. Whenever he told his mom he wanted an emerald she laughed and told him to practice the piano, do his homework, brush his teeth or go to bed.
So Matthew saved his money. He mowed the lawn for the neighbors. He took care of his friend’s dog when his family went on vacation. He saved the birthday money his grandparents gave him.
When Matthew had saved $36.17 he went to his mother and asked her if their family could go on an emerald hunt in the Brazilian jungle.
“You know we can’t go on vacations like that,” his mother answered. “Your brother Caleb is not well and we can’t take him far from home.
Matthew loved his brother so he understood. Then Mathew’s mother smiled for a delightful idea had blossomed in her heart.
“Would you like to go to a museum where they have lots of special gems,” Matthew’s mother asked.
“Yes!” Matthew answered. “Can we take Caleb too?”
So Matthew, his mother and his brother took a day trip to the museum at the university near their home. A professor of rocks talked to Matthew and showed him drawer after drawer of precious gems from all over the world. That’s when Matthew decided he was going to be a professor of rocks when he grew up.
On their way home Matthew, his brother and his mother stopped by the dollar store. While Matthew was looking at the candy, his mother secretly found some treasures of her own. Later that evening while Matthew was eating cake and ice cream with his grandma and grandpa, Matthew’s mother secretly slipped outside.
Then a knock came at their front door. Matthew answered it.
“I heard this is the place where I might find emeralds,” the man at the door said. Matthew recognized him. He was the professor of rocks from the university. “Do you mind if I do some digging in your back yard?”
“You won’t find any,” Matthew said. “I’ve already checked.”
“You never know,” the doctor said. “Sometimes all you need is a learned guide.”
So Matthew and the professor walked into his back yard. The professor searched each patch of dirt around the bushes with his magnifying glass and special treasure rod. Some times the professor scratched his head then looked at Matthew’s mother as he searched.
“There,” the doctor finally said, “I think you should dig there.”
Matthew took the professor’s hand shovel and started digging. All of a sudden the shovel hit something hard. Mathew excitedly reached inside the hole, grabbed a small box and lifted it up into his lap. Then he slowly opened the lid. Staring up at him was a box was full of sparkly green gems.
“Sometimes the best treasures are in your own backyard,” the professor said.
Matthew didn’t hear him. He was dashing into the house to share his emeralds with his brother.


Christmas Gifts

“Kids!” Mom yelled after I heard the front door slam shut. “Come here quick!”
I’ll never forget what my mother asked of me that Christmas Eve when I was nine years old. Mom was the Relief Society President in our LDS ward which meant she helped the bishop take care of the poor in our area.
“There’s a family in our neighborhood that doesn’t have anything for Christmas,” Mom said brushing the snow off her coat. “They haven’t asked for any help but I’ve been in their home and there is no tree, no presents or food. They just moved here from Hawaii. The stores are closed. We’ll have to put together a box from what we have. I want each of you to go to your room, pick out your favorite possession and bring it to me. We want our gift box to be the very best we have.”
Then my mother read from a piece of paper filled with the names and ages of the children in this family to help us in our search. There was a girl on the list just my age named Linda. I imagined what she looked like. She would be bare footed, dressed in rags and shivering with the cold. So I bounded up the stairs to my bedroom to find something especially nice.
I was feeling enormously generous as I spied each possession on the shelf above my desk. First I saw my jewelry box, my third favorite possession. Then I spied my collection of books, my second favorite possession. Then I saw her, my favorite doll. She was still inside the plastic case she came in. I’d never taken such good care of anything in my entire nine years. She was a delicate ballerina who possessed all the grace and beauty I lacked.
I can give away anything but that doll, I remember thinking. But Mom said it had to be my favorite. I carefully took the doll from the shelf. Then something occurred to me. No one knows this is my favorite, I thought. I could give something else and no body would know. I put my favorite doll back on the shelf and reached for my jewelry box. Then I took several steps toward the door. But I know, I remember thinking.
I walked back to the shelf, set the jewelry box down and reached for my doll. I walked slowly downstairs and placed her ever so carefully inside a large cardboard box filled with food and other gifts from my siblings. I didn’t want my brother or sisters to make fun of me so I saved my tears until I was alone in my bed that night.
Several days later I was sitting in Sunday school at church when my teacher introduced me to a new girl in my class.
“This is Linda,” my teacher said. “She just moved here from Hawaii.”
My heart jumped. This was the little girl from the family my mother told me about. I visualized her family opening the door on Christmas Eve with such wonder and delight that it took away some of the sting of parting with my doll.
“Did you have a nice Christmas?” I asked Linda.
“Our things from Hawaii didn’t come yet so we spent Christmas with my Grandparents,” Linda said. “They fed us a feast and gave us lots of presents. Then as an afterthought she blurted out, “Somebody left a box of junk on our doorstep on Christmas Eve like they thought we were poor or something.”
I felt like someone had just kicked me in the stomach. I could picture my favorite doll in a rusting garbage can covered with old rotting food.
It has taken years for me to put some perspective on that Christmas Eve when I was nine. I have come to understand that how a beneficiary receives a gift does not diminish the giver or the significance of the gift offered. That tiny babe in the manger still reaches out to all. How we receive Christ’s love is our gift to God.
Because of that experience long ago, I look around me each Christmas morning and ask, “What is my favorite possession? Can I give it away?” Though my possessions are larger now and more expensive - baby grand piano, comfortable home, new car - if I can truthfully answer yes, I am at peace.


Thoughts On Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving! Here are a few thoughts I wanted to share on gratitude.

Gratitude is the best non-prescription antidepressant in the world. I've never met a grateful person who was not happy - or a happy person who was not grateful. Gratitude allows us to enjoy life before things get better. In fact, when we want what we have, we always get what we want.

No one likes to be around complainers. When we focus our thoughts on what we're grateful for, we make the best of what life hands us. Gratitude awakens us to the miracles all around us - the road we drive on, warm water for our shower and fresh food to eat in the winter.

Gratitude moves us to share laughter and make loving human connections. Gratitude invites us to feel at peace about our past, gives us the capacity to experience true joy today and allows us to create a hopeful vision for tomorrow.

Life isn't easy. Yet once we accept that life is difficult, a series of problems to face and work through, it ceases to be so hard. When we accept life as it is, we are free to embrace it - to live life fully and intimately. Just being alive for one more day is a grand thing.

True wealth is an inner awareness we attain by taking personal inventory of our present assets - health, friends, family, work, food and shelter. If we don't appreciate what we have, more will never be enough.

One of the best parts of growing older is that most of those things we wanted and couldn't afford when we were young we no longer want. We learn to relish simplicity. The less we want the more we have. The simpler we make our lives, the more abundant they become. Spending unhurried hours with those you love is priceless.

The joy of life is the journey. This is it. It doesn't get better than this. So we can stop waiting. We can eat more ice-cream, go barefoot, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life is to be lived and loved as we go along. Like a roller coaster ride; it's the hills and valley that make it a thrill. The secret of life is to be grateful for the whole breathtaking ride.


My Daughter's Research

The following is an article written about my daughter Aubrey in an on-line publication called "Under the Microscope"

Part One
by Sam Lemonick
Thursday, 12 November 2009
In the 1920s archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley began a dig that captured the world's attention like the discovery of King Tut's tomb had five years before. Digging at the site of the Mesopotamian city of Ur, thought to be the home of the Bible's Abraham, he had uncovered 4,000-year-old tombs which held royalty, untold wealth in jewelry and ornaments, and soldiers and servants who had died with their masters.
Many of the attendants’ bodies were buried with ceremonial goblets nearby, and Woolley reported that these men and women had drunk poison so they could follow their masters into the afterlife. The artifacts and some of the bodies were sent back to the museums which sponsored the expedition, among them the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. Now, some 80 years later, a new exhibit at the Penn Museum features recent research that suggests the royal attendants met a much more gruesome end than Woolley thought.

The exhibit and the discoveries behind it are the product of four women's work over the last several years. Archaeologist Aubrey Baadsgard was the first to start looking at the Ur artifacts again. For help determining how the attendants died, she turned to physical anthropologist Janet Monge and her undergraduate researcher Samantha Cox. Now their work is available to the public thanks to Kate Quinn, the lead exhibition designer at the Penn Museum.
This all started as Baadsgard's dissertation on the jewelry found on the bodies of the royalty and their attendants, many pieces of which are in the collection at the Penn Museum. Also at Penn are two attendants' skulls, which were found flattened by the weight of centuries of accumulated dirt. Baadsgard was interested in making digital models of these skulls that could show how jewelry might have been worn. She approached Monge, who was already working on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to build a database of models of the museum's skulls that could be used by researchers worldwide.

Although Baadsgard was looking at jewelry, she also hoped that the CT scans and other modern investigative techniques might point to the truth about the attendents' deaths. For years Woolley's conclusion that the servants had drunk poison went unchallenged, but there was reason to be suspicious. Goblets had been found at many other excavations of Mesopotamian graves, both group and individual, and seemed to be associated with funerary feasts rather than poisoning.

For Baadsgard, working on the Ur skulls was the culmination of a dream. "I remember telling someone when I was twelve that I was going to get a Ph.D. in archaeology," she says. "I had it as my goal and it was goal ever since. I never really looked back, I just did what it took." Archaeology was a much broader horizon than anything else she knew in the small town in Utah where she grew up. Field research as a Brigham Young University undergraduate in Petra, Jordan (site of the temple in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), solidified her interest in archaeology. She went to Penn for her doctorate because she would have access to the collections at the Penn Museum, which are some of the largest in the country. Now she sees herself following in the footsteps of Gertrude Bell, who in the 1920s was the first director of antiquities in Iraq.


My Hero

I ran a race along side my daughter last week. I watched April push Caleb’s stroller in the 5K run with a smile and a friendly wave to each person she saw along the way.

April has been running a marathon with her son for almost five years now. Because Caleb was born without a brain she has lovingly cared for him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Only those close to her know the hills and valleys she has to face - the constant life and death struggle it is to keep her son alive.

April has been Caleb’s legs so he can run, his voice so he can speak, his hands reaching out to others when he can’t move.

As her mother I watch from the stands in awe.

April you are my hero.


A Decorated Veteran Dies on Veteran's Day

Today I looked over my fence into my neighbor's yard and saw a sea of American flags waving in the breeze. It was a magical moment - a stirring tribute - a deeply touching display of honor for Bill Rawlings by his children.

Bill died yesterday . . . on Veteran's Day. I can't think of a more fitting benediction to a man who served his country with honor. Bill was in most of the major battles in Europe during World War II and saw things no man should have to see. What kept him going and gave him the will to survive was a sweetheart waiting stateside. Ann wrote to him several times a week. They'd met in junior high and it was love at first sight. If he made it home alive they were going to get married. Bill made it home. They raised seven wonderful children together.

Now there are 86 flags standing stately in Bill's yard, each representing one year of his life and 5 more for each of the major campaigns he fought in.

Bill has been in frail health for several years. But he has been determined to stay alive so he could take care of his sweetheart.

I think God looked down on this couple who had cared for each other with such tenderness for so long and granted their greatest wish . . . that they wouldn't have to be separated for long. Ann died two weeks ago.

Not many couples get to leave this life so close together. Not many honored veterans die on Veteran's Day. Not many couples have such a storybook ending to a rich and beautiful life.

I love you Bill and Ann. I'll miss you.


Sophia and the Diamond Bracelet

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Sophia who loved everything sparkly. One day Sophia and her mother were walking through a fancy department store. There in a clear glass case, Sophia spied a sparkly bracelet.
“Oh, Mommy, can I have that?” Sophia asked.
“No honey. That is a diamond bracelet. Only rich people can buy that.”
“What’s rich mean?” Sophia asked.
“That means people with lots of money.”
“We have money.”
“Not enough for a diamond bracelet.”
“I wish we were rich,” Sophia said.
That night Sophia took a bath, brushed her teeth and climbed into bed.
When her mother tucked her in, she stroked her forehead and sang Sophia’s favorite song. . .
On the wings of angels God sent you to me
Close your eyes little one - I’ll watch over thee
Sleep tight my precious child, sleep little lamb
Mommy’s always here for you wherever I am
The angels in heaven watch over thy head
Till night time is over – light covers thy head

That night Sophia had a bad dream. Trembling, she slipped from her blankets and tip-toed into her mother’s bedroom.
“Mommy,” Sophia said, “I had a scary dream.”
“I know just what to do,” her mother said. “First we need a soft blanket and Grandma’s rocking chair.”
Sophia took her mother’s warm hand as they walked into the front room.
“Wait, just one minute,” Sophia’s mother said as she opened the front door and moved the rocking chair out onto the front porch.
Sophia was puzzled. Her mother had never moved their rocking chair outside.
“Sophia,” her mother whispered as she grabbed a blanket. “Are you ready?”
Sophia nodded unsure what was going to happen next. Her mother wrapped Sophia up tight in a soft blanket like a cocoon with only her face peeking out. Then she carried her outside into the dark night. They both snuggled deep into the rocking chair. Then Sophia’s mother rocked her back and forth, back and forth. Before long Sophia stopped trembling. She felt cozy. Each time they rocked back and forth Sophia could hear Grandma’s rocking chair creek. Back and forth, back and forth they rocked together until Sophia’s breathing slowed and every part of her body felt warm.
“Do you know why Grandma’s rocking chair is special?” her mother asked.
“Why?” Sophia asked.
“Once when I was a little girl I had the croup and I couldn't breathe. My mommy bundled me up until only my face was peeking out and then she brought me outside and held me close in this rocking chair. She rocked me back and forth, back and forth until I could breathe better.”
“Were you scared?” Sophia asked.
“Yes, I was scared,” Sophia’s mother answered. “My mother said the cold air helped me breathe better. But I knew it was my mommy and the stars.”
“Stars?” Sophia asked.
“While she rocked me, my mommy told me to look up. I saw thousands of sparkly lights in the black sky. She told me those lights were angels watching over little children. She told me God lets mothers who love their children watch over them always even when they live far apart. Those stars are mother’s eyes winking at their children just to let them know they’ll always be there and they’ll always love them.”
Sophia looked up into the black sky and saw countless twinkling lights.
“They look like diamonds,” Sophia said.
Sophia’s mother smiled as a happy idea came into her heart. Then she winked at her little daughter and sang her favorite song again as they rocked back and forth.
And as she sang, Sophia watched the sky and all the mothers winking at their children. Sophia fell asleep listening to her mother whisper, “I love you Sophia. I’ll love you forever.”
The next thing Sophia remembered was waking up in her own bed. She ran quickly to the front room looking for her mother. The first thing she saw was Grandma’s rocking chair. Then Sophia saw something sparkling in the early morning light. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. There on the seat of the rocking chair was a bracelet filled with tiny clear gems winking at her.
“Are they really diamonds?” Sophia asked as she placed the bracelet on her wrist.
“Close enough,” her mother answered.
“We’re rich,” Sophia said whirling in the circle.
“Yes,” her mother answered. “So very, very rich.”