Remembering Ann

My neighbor Ann Rawlings died. She was buried after her funeral yesterday. She is my neighbor . . . and my friend. She and her husband Bill moved in next to me seventeen years ago as a retired couple. I have grown to love them as if they are my own family.
When I walked into the viewing room and saw Bill seated in a chair next to Ann's casket with his head bowed I couldn't hold back the tears.
"I don't know what to do," Bill said while I put my arms around his neck.

Bill and Ann Rawlings truly love each other. On my dozens of visits to their home they always expressed their gratitude for life and retold the story of how they met.

While I sat at their kitchen table with Ann's daughters as they planned her funeral, I looked into their beautiful dark eyes and saw pieces of their mother looking back at me . . . the way she laughed . . . the way she held her hands. And I realized Ann lives on in those she left behind.

I've heard it said that we die when we've learned what we came to learn or when we've taught what we came to teach. I think Ann did both.

At her funeral her children remembered her soft hands on their cheeks and her spagetti dinners. It seems as though it is the little things we do that turn out to be the big things.

As her grandchildren and great-grandchildren walked to the stand at the church to sing "I Am A Child of God" at her funeral I waited at the piano to accompany them. In each face I saw a look, a smile, a gesture of my friend and neighbor.

Snow fell yesterday - a soft benediction to Ann's life . . . so filled with gentleness and grace.


BYU Football Game Musings

I went to a BYU football game tonight. There's nothing like a crisp fall night, green grass, eager young men, the roar of the crowd . . . and then . . . the inevitable winning or losing.

Because I am a mother whose son played football I see the winning and losing part differently now. The know about all the time and effort that goes into being on a football team. I know about the long practices, the painful injuries, the competition for positions and the personal disappointment that follows losing an important game.

I remember telling my son after a heartbreaking loss, "Jacob, maybe it's not so much about winning or losing, but putting everything you have on the field so you can walk away knowing you gave it all you had."

"Yeah I know all that Mom, but it still hurts," Jacob answered.

Now when I go home from a game where my team didn't win, I think about all those young men who gave their best to an effort that didn't work out the way they planned.

Life has taught me that we all have good game days and bad game days, winning seasons and losing seasons - yet one thing I also know about life . . . it goes on. There is always a new day coming and many more seasons left to play.


Nothing Gold Can Stay

Each day I love to take a walk in my own back yard and contemplate what it means to be alive. Today I found our pitch fork standing alone in a garden that is now harvested and gone and a previously green tree suddenly filled with gold. I was reminded how quickly the seasons change - how brief each day, each life . . .

and in my mind came the words of Robert Frost . . .
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


Fall Break Adventures

This week-end we explored Goblin Valley - nature's wonderland. We spent hours hiking and exploring.

I think many of us are nature-starved. Our spirit longs for all things real - sand, sky, mountains and trees.

Our children created their own fun at our camp site by building rock forts and whole cities in the coral pink sand. That night we slept next to magnificent red rock cliffs and studied the stars in the night sky.

On Friday we hiked the narrow slot canyon eight mile loop trail from Little Wild Horse Canyon to Bell's Canyon. Countless past years of wind and water have created unique sandstone beauty that has to be experienced first hand.


Autumn Days

My husband and I went on a four-wheeler ride up the left fork of Hobble Creek Canyon for our date on Friday night. This is a rough road with lots of large boulders in the path, streams to cross, steep grades and numerous rock slides. Yet there were moments when we would come around a bend in the road and there in full autumn splender was my private glimpse into heaven . . . deep green pines nestled in yellow quaking aspen with splashes of brilliant red maples. The golden glow of a late autumn day in the Rocky Mountains can literally take your breath away. When we arrived at the top of the ridge and looked back we could see the rugged mountains peaks frosted with white snow against the blue sky.

Our lives are also filled with large boulders in the path, streams to cross, steep grades and rock slides. But there are moments when we come around a bend in the road and there in full splender is God's love just waiting to give us our own private glimpse into heaven.


Longing for Home

My daughter Aubrey was doing some scholarly work at the British Museum. She asked me to meet her in London and accompany her for some site-seeing trips when she completed her research. My ancestors are from the British Isles and I had sometimes wondered if England was my true home. I’d often dreamed of visiting all the places I’d only read about – perhaps even living in a thatched roof cottage and writing novels like Dickens, Austen or Hardy. So this invitation was like a dream come true.
After a trans-Atlantic flight I found myself using quaint red telephone booths, riding the tube and visiting Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Greenwich, Kensington Palace, Stonehenge, Oxford and Cambridge. I’d studied British history and literature all my life and now I was really there where it all happened, breathing in the damp air and walking the misty mores. I was beginning to wonder why my ancestors left.
On the way back to the airport at the end of my vacation, I sat in a train next to a middle aged woman. She’d been to London to see an exhibit. She watched me as I stared wide-eyed out the window noticing every quaint row house or manicured rose garden.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful here,” I said. “There’s so much history every where you look, and it’s so green. Don’t you just love living here?”
The woman lowered her eyebrows and answered, “Oh my dear, everything is so old here - musty, rusted-out or broken. You can’t find a good man to repair anything - so you’re always in a pinch.”
Then she asked me where I lived. I told her my home was out west in the United States on two acres in Utah. She became animated and asked me several questions.
“Oh, I’ve always wanted to live in the States, especially in the West. Everything is so new there - wide open spaces and endless possibilities - sunshine almost every day.”
I realized she longed for what I had but couldn’t see what she had. I wondered if I was the same way. As I listened to her, I pictured my great-grandmothers and fathers standing on the docks waiting to board a huge ship bound for the colonies in America. Then I imagined other ancestors as they left behind their lush green gardens and farms in Nauvoo Illinois. My people gave up the easy life to find a place where they could live according to the dictates of their own conscience. Their lives would have been so much easier and safer if they had stayed, but they left . . . for me. I would not have the rich life I enjoy today without their courage. Now, at long last, I could finally appreciate their gift.
Later that day as I looked out the window of the airplane, I watched the great Rocky Mountain corridor come into view much like the castles or palaces I had just left behind. I was going home. I was not looking beyond the next hill or bend in the road any more. What I had was enough. Life was no longer greener on the other side of the world, only different.
If we never see what we already have, we never find our way home.


Studio 5 Interview

Finding Time for Your Kids: Daily Rituals That Really Matter

Most parents are searching for ways to spend more time with their children. The secret isn’t always finding more time but making the time parents and children already have together really count. Here are several daily rituals parents might consider adding to their normal routine.

* Create Memorable Mealtimes
Families who commit to eating at least one meal together soon discover the benefits that come from creating a golden family hour each day. This hour is time set aside exclusively for the family. It helps to set aside a specific time every day and eliminate as many distractions as possible by turning off the television, computer and telephones. Community, school, career and church activities are numerous and will encroach on family time if not carefully selected.

A golden hour might include:
Preparing a meal together
Saying a prayer
Eating together
Reading a chapter from a good book/talking about the day’s activities/singing a song
Doing the dishes together
Helping with homework/going for a walk/throwing a baseball/playing a board game.

* Make Homecomings and Departures a “Touching” Event
Everyone likes to be noticed, appreciated and loved. It only takes a few seconds for parents to make every homecoming and departure a little more warm and fuzzy for their children. Don’t hold back. Be warm and affectionate when your child leaves or come back home.
Parents can:
Make a positive comment – “I believe in you!” “Make it a good day.” “I’m so glad you’re home!” “I missed you today.”
Wave from the window
Blow kisses
Say “I love you.”

* Utilize Transport Time
Most parents and children spend part of their day in their car going and coming from a multitude of activities like school, lessons and activities. Parents can put this time to better use by recognizing car time as a great time for positive personal parent/child interaction.
Parents can:
Turn off cell phones/radio/stereo
Be truly present
Listen - Sometimes children open up best when they aren’t looking straight at you
Create fun car games and a family goodbye honk
Invite one child at a time to accompany you on routine errands

* Establish Pleasurable Bed Time Routines
Bedtime routines can be painful and stressful if rushed or forced. It only takes a few extra minutes to have positive personal time with each child each night.
Parents can:
Stager bedtimes for each child so they have individual time and avoid interruptions
Read books
Tell original adventure tales starring the child
Take a few minutes to carefully tuck the child in bed
Ask: “What was one good thing that happened today?”
“What was one thing that was not so good?”
Sing a lullaby
Stroke the child’s forehead
Say I love you
Rub noses/kiss/hug

Children who have been loved know how to love. Daily loving rituals don’t take more time or money; they only require that parents re-order their lives so that they have unhurried time for the people who matter most.