Thursday, January 4, 2018

On the Lord's Errand

Since February of 2008, Thomas S. Monson served as Prophet, Seer and Revelator and also in the administrative role of President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He passed away Tuesday night. And while his wit and leadership will be missed, the feeling is happy.  We are happy that he's with his much-loved wife again and imagining the grand reunions with her and other family and friends.  There is surely a celebration in Heaven!

Called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before I was even born, he lived a life of service that is a reminder to me and countless fellow members to think of others in all the situations life throws our way.  We treasured his stories about the lessons life taught him and his living example to seek out 'the one' who needs us most.  We laughed with undying affection when he would wiggle his ears at Conference.  And we all felt a little more confident that all was really going to be alright in this scary world when he told us to take heart.  I met him once.  It was a chance passing on a downtown Salt Lake City sidewalk but he had a sincere greeting and what I remember as the kindest eyes I've ever looked into.  They bespoke pure love and then the corners crinkled up in accompaniment to his smile.  Simple, uneventful... yet, an experience I remember.  I also credit him with my own desire to teach principles by sharing stories. I loved it when he used stories of people he'd known to teach us how to be better people.

Some might wonder what's going to happen to the Church now faced with a change in leadership.  It's actually fairly simple.  We'll celebrate President Monson's life with a beautiful funeral service in the coming days, listen with tears in our eyes as the last rendition of "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet" is played just for him, and then move forward with the work of spreading the gospel.  Succession is described well on  They explain that the First Presidency, the highest ranking administrative body in the Church, is dissolved on the President's death and the Counselors (similar to advisors) resume their place in the seniority of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest presiding body.  The Twelve (now numbering 14 with the Counselors) have the responsibility to oversee the progress and advancement of the Church worldwide under the leadership of the Senior Apostle.

The Senior Apostle calls a meeting of the entire Quorum where they discuss two questions:  Should the First Presidency be reorganized at this time? Or should the Church continue to function under the leadership of the Twelve?  A motion is made and accepted.  If the motion is to reorganize the First Presidency, a President is unanimously chosen and he selects two Counselors.  Tradition, throughout the entire history of the Church, sees the longest-serving Apostle chosen as President.  The second-longest-serving Apostle then becomes President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (or third-longest-serving if the second-longest-serving Apostle is chosen as a Counselor).  At the next General Conference, a sustaining vote is taken across the entire membership of the Church where we pledge to support these leaders in doing their work.  Because of this process, we Mormon's are ready and able to move forward immediately.  Russell M. Nelson is currently the longest-serving Apostle and we anticipate welcoming him as the new President sometime in the next few weeks and raising our arm to the square to sustain him at April General Conference.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

What I Love About Winter

Accuweather's 10-day forecast for Mount Savage, MD
on Dec 30, 2017

Has your skin turned blue... are you frozen through and through?  Oh, baby, it's cold outside! But I'm trying to stay positive this chilly night before New Year’s Eve and find some things to make winter seem more like an old friend than such an evil intruder throwing a wrench into whatever I have planned.

What I love most about winter:

Sweats are fashionable
Hot cocoa
Crockpots full of simmering soup
Guessing at animal footprints after fresh snowfall
A crackling fire in the fireplace
Fuzzy socks
Little kids stuffed into puffy coats 'til they can barely walk
Snuggly puppies
Electric blanket (or electric mattress pad so it's warm from below)
Ice cold water from the tap
Chicken pot pie
Fluffy bathrobes
Hot spiced cider
Looking at seed catalogs & dreaming of spring gardens
Watching kids sled down a hillside
Colorful birds flitting about in bare tree branches
The way falling snow makes it look like you're inside a snowglobe
Catching snowflakes on your tongue
Steaming bowls of chili
Being covered in the afghan you're crocheting
Daydreaming about a Hawaiian vacation
Dogs with crazy sweaters
Slathering butter on bread right from the oven
Videos of dogs learning to walk in their new booties
Binge watching Hallmark movies
Rolling the "r" when you say brrrrr...
Cute boots (and cute hats and mittens and scarves, too)
All kinds of apple desserts
Fondling the Christmas decorations as  you  put them away

And probably my very favorite... Complaining about the cold!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review

As 2018 is about to get itself underway, I find I’m still an accidental resident of Mount Savage, MD.  Accidental in that I never intended to be here and then when I found myself here, it was only supposed to be for a few days. That was just over a year ago.  My neighbors include a couple of giant raccoons, a fearless Momma possum, some rogue deer, and judging from the scratch marks on the deck… a black bear that wants to be a whole lot more friendly than makes me comfortable.  There’s an assortment of dogs and cats and even some humans, too.  I’ve managed to meet a few of them, even some of the people, this past year and one person, Barbara, has transformed from possibly the most negative and prickly woman I’ve ever met into a true and faithful friend.

I’ve only begun to explore my habitat but already found that Mount Savage is one of those historically significant places that no one’s ever really heard about.  Through the convergence of location and natural resource availability, it became a center of industry in the late 1800s and has fame for rolling the steel for the first railroad track ever produced in the United States. It was also a company-owned town for a time when the clay taken from the surrounding mountains produced a uniquely high-quality brick that’s still prized by collectors and those doing period-correct property restorations.  One day I want to find out more and go take some photos of the old brick ovens. I also want to check out the museum now housed in the town’s original one-cell jail built specifically to provide drunks a safe place to sleep it off.

One of the things that kept me from exploring was an accident early in the year where I badly injured my right shoulder. That ‘grounded’ me for several months. With Jack’s efforts as nursemaid, support brace, heating pad, exercise machine, and 24/7 comforter, the breaks and tears and nerve damage of a total dislocation are probably about as healed as they’re ever going to get now and it’s mostly ok.  There are some activities it inhibits, though… Like crocheting and cooking and cutting the dog’s toenails.  Those have become decidedly short-duration undertakings due to the numb fingers they trigger.  I also had to take time off school because I couldn’t get my hand up to the computer keyboard to post in discussions and write all those papers but I’m back at it now and making progress.  A few days ago I had that breakthrough moment where I actually felt competent talking Psychology and that this might be a real viable career choice for my last shot at that sort of stuff.  That was an awesome feeling!

The most exotic place I’ve been this whole year is the County dump.  It’s a unique arrangement here where you have to stop along the way at a specific Payless Drug and buy stickers to put on your trash bags.  They are $1 each and every bag needs one.  If you arrive on site without them, you’ll be ushered the 7-ish miles halfway back to town, or about the same distance on out the road to a different store in another town, to get them.  Just ask me how I know this…

I’m still being a culinary adventurer.  This year’s ‘new to me’ winner foods include quince, Sugar cakes, and Apple Pan Dowdy.  Quince is a fruit that resembles a yellow apple but has a much more perfume-like scent and taste.  I understand (now) that it’s meant to be cooked but when I found some at the grocery store I just bought one to taste and me and the boys ate it raw. I’m intrigued enough to put it in the orchard I’m imagining for my someday place… and Lightning, my resident foodie, found it delicious.  Sugar Cakes are huge, pillowy, cake-like sugar cookies.  Imagine a Lofthouse cookie and a homemade yellow cake had a round pale-faced baby… and you’re sort of close.  They can be frosted when cooled or just sprinkled with a little sugar prior to baking.  Oh, they are yummy! And Apple Pan Dowdy may be my favorite dessert ever.  It is the perfect combination of pie and bread pudding and caramelly baked apples. Where has this been my whole life?  The Sugar Cakes, Apple Pan Dowdy, and several uniquely Pennsylvania Dutch dishes like Slippery Pot Pie and Rivvel Soup are Barbara’s contribution to expanding my gastronomic curiosity.

Gizmo kissed a cat.  And the cat liked it!  Out of all my guys, his herding tendency made me worried about how he’d get on with the cats.  But he loves Crybaby, a yellow-striped tom that’s also part of this motley crew, and Crybaby loves him.  Crybaby actually likes all the boys and works hard to engage them in goofy little games much to his Mommy’s consternation…  Barbara is over-worried one of them is going to pounce “and break his back because they are so big and rough.” Yes, you just heard my eyes roll but I respect her discomfort and regularly call them off.

Plans for 2018 include finishing up the final classes for my BA in Psychology, making my final selection for grad school, and getting things underway for my MA.  My concentration area has been Social Psychology but I’ve enjoyed the Forensics classes so much more that I think that’s where I will focus my graduate work.  My other goals are pretty tightly focused on job and home and community getting adequately situated in all of them.  I also want to get back to taking little adventures and finding delight in the extraordinary details of day-to-day life that exist if I’m purposeful in paying attention to them. And if I can, I hope to sneak in some art and creative writing.  Which brings us to the goal that’s relevant to this blog: When my life isn’t all that interesting, I lose steam.  So… either I’m going to live a blog-worthy life or take the blog down in this coming year.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Life Goes On

There are times in your life when those words are exactly the truth you don't want to hear. While there are other times we mourn something or someone lost, I bet you, like me, think first of those excruciatingly and exquisitely painful first days after a loved one has passed away. You feel so much like something inside of you is gone. Irreplaceable and irrecoverable.  Yet, the world keeps turning on its trip around the sun. Grass grows. People go on about their business. And one day you find yourself awestruck that... life goes on.

Photo credit to her Daddy, Rory Feek.
I had that experience this morning. It was this simple picture of a little girl with a great big smile shared on the Joey+Rory Facebook page. She reminded me, in this moment her Daddy captured and shared with the world, of another little girl with an equally infectious smile and zest for living.  But it was his caption that while he could usually see more of her Momma today he saw himself that made me catch my breath.  The little girl in the photo is Indy. The other girl, the only child of a couple I knew in Georgia, is Kaydee. Most often when I see a picture of Kaydee, I think she looks like her Daddy but every now and again her expression is purely a reflection of her Mother. There was one just this past week that kept me staring and remembering the ultimate kindness, generosity, and cheerful words of a friend gone before we ever got to know each other nearly well enough.

You see, besides the huge grins and amazing spirit these girls have in common, Indy and Kaydee both lost their Mothers to breast cancer in the last year. I don't know a whole lot about the kind of cancer that took Joey Feek but the one that stole away Kaydee's sweet Momma is an insidious and stealthy killer for which there is no cure. Her cancer was one that masquerades as a host of other diseases making it easy to overlook and misdiagnose. One of the Atlanta television stations recently did a feature story on Inflammatory Breast Cancer that explains there's no lump or tumor to show up on a mammogram, only a reddish patch that looks a lot like a heat rash and the grim truth, that while treatment can slow it down, this cancer kills 100% of the time.

While we mourn the loss of their Mommas and marvel at the resiliency and acceptance of little girls like Indy and Kaydee, we find that truly life goes on.

With or without you, life goes on.

Note to self:  Choose to participate. Accept what is, work to fix what needs fixing, find your zest... Find your smile. Do it every single day.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Always & Forever Mama's Jacky

I am so glad Jack is mine!  And so thankful Derek found him on eBay and insisted we go get him when my heart was hurting over having to return Roscoe to the shelter and I really didn't want to "replace" him the same day.  Jack has become such a friend and blessing!!  And it doesn't hurt that he has the cutest personality, and hence, lots of silly little stories...

Waiting on a treat with rapt attention in May 2014...
Jack is a lover!

Were there a pillow under his chin here, this is the view I wake up to pretty much each morning - his nose.  With his head stretched out along side mine and his hot breath in my eyeball is how we frequently welcome the day.  All night long we sleep with some part of him touching me but usually along toward morning he migrates toward the top of the bed almost like a guardian angel watching for me to wake up.  (His thoughts might be more like "Get up and feed me!" but I can always imagine right?)  Then as time moves on, Jack is the boy most likely to come rest his chin on either my lap or chest and gaze at me for loves and kisses.  Especially if they come with a little treat!  And if I'm sad, he's the first in line to lick away the tears and kiss it all better.  You really couldn't ask for a sweeter canine companion. I ask him sometimes just how they got so much sugar in one puppy...

Jack is my protector!

One afternoon there was a white cat wandering along the treeline out back.  All the boys saw it and starting barking their heads off... but Jacky was all set to protect me from this threatening intruder.  He was growling and down in his attack stance and all the hair along the ridge of his back was standing straight up!  For them to bark at birds, the occasional cottontail or even leaves moving in the breeze isn't unusual... but for my little man to get this worked up?  It got my attention.  I stood back and watched with some amusement as the cat nonchalantly made his way through the trees and up through the yard of one of the houses behind us perfectly unaware of the ruckus he (or maybe it's a she?) was causing.  Once the kitty was out of sight, the boys all settled down.  Poor Jack's back legs were shaking so hard I wondered for a minute how he stayed standing!  He was scared out of his mind but would have gone right to battle to keep me safe!!

Jack is a giant!

A sleepy Jacky... all that growing is tiring!
My baby, the last of the dogs to reach the birthday anniversary every year, will celebrate his fourth birthday in July.  He's been visibly "taller" than his bestest buddy, Lightning, since he was a year old and I was sure he would fill out some.  But just a couple of days ago, I wondered if he'd gotten taller still! Gizmo can walk underneath him without crouching down at all.  Line the three of them up side by side and it's like a staircase... Jack has the longest legs! But he still won't jump and has to be boosted into the back of the car.

Jack is a clown!

A rousing match of mouth wrestling is in progress.
The way my boys play can be a little unnerving to the uninitiated... I sort of like to call this shot "The Gaping Jaws of Hell." It's Lightning and Jack playing together - mouth wrestling. They never actually bite each other, just open their mouths wide and growl and make other unusual vocalizations as part of a full body contact wrestling match.  Even when they put their mouth over the other's head or neck or other reachable body part, their jaws never close and their body language, wagging tail and happy facial expressions, tells me they are having fun.  This isn't how Jack usually plays with Gizmo, though.  And that's much to Gizzy's dismay.  It's almost like Jacky recognizes that Giz is only half his size and he spends a lot more time down on his elbows or rolling around wrestling in a gentler way.

This is Jack shortly after we brought him home.  Lightning was so excited to have a new puppy and turned into the best big brother/babysitter... His face seemed to say "A puppy!!!  Thank you Mommy for getting me the greatest toy ever made!!"

Baby Jack... He still fit in my arms and on my lap!

And this is him just a couple of months ago...  Just like all Mommies, I'm asking "why must they grow up so fast?"

Big boy Jack... but still my baby!

I sure do love you, baby boy!!