As bizarre as it may sound, each spring we clean our home with a leaf blower! Yes, the garden tool. At first, I thought my husband Roger was crazy, but he was right. It’s messy, but effective. We live in a log home in the woods; its dusty and the logs are hard to clean. Through the years, we’ve put into place quite a process. First, cover the furniture, especially the small items that are hard to dust. Then, with goggles and a mask, start at the highest point, in the loft and go to town! What a mess!!! Dust and debris fly down and around and out the doors. Then, we leave for a few hours let the dust settle. When we return, the real cleanup begins. Shake out the sheets, vacuum and wipe down all the surfaces. Then vacuum and wipe down the surfaces again. And again. Then the windows. It takes time but it feels so great! Clean, clear, and crisp.
We finished this task just a few days ago, and I can’t seem to get the phrase, ‘clearing the cobwebs’ off my mind. Webster defines this phrase as follows: to remove a feeling of confusion, vagueness, or lack of clarity about something (from one’s mind).
With all that is going on in the world around us, it is easy to ignore the gathering dust bunnies and cobwebs in our heads. Perhaps it is time for each of us to clean our emotional and mental houses. For those who clean up regularly, it may simply take nice walk, a bit of yoga or meditation. For others some, we’ll need to get the leaf blower out!
Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful when I know it is time for a refresh.
- Dig in the dirt – plant a garden.
- Spend time near water: the beach, lake, pond, river, streams. There is something healing about water.
- Go barefoot outside, in the grass or sand. I love the how the energy from the earth flows and strengthens.
- Create a ‘energy up’ playlist. I created a favorite file of songs that ONLY create good memories, positive thoughts, and uplifting messages. I listen often.
- Important to write it out. Free your mind of negative thoughts, bad experiences, and resentment towards others. It is freeing and great way to make space for joyful new things.
And finally, de-junk, clean and organize your physical space. It may take some time, but well worth it to make the effort to both literally and figuratively – clear the cobwebs!
The pink and purple balloons attached with duct tape were a dead give-away that the young father had made the poster himself. “Welcome to summer vacation with Daddy, baby girl!”
As I and hundreds of others got off a long flight and made our way down the busy corridor of Salt Lake City International Airport, many of us noticed the sign, smiled and pointed it out to the others. The “WELCOME” at the top was big and bold, but the letters got smaller and smaller to ensure that all the words would fit on the poster before he ran out of space. As I hurried on my way to the airport baggage claim, I smiled and thought, “Oh, how awesome!”
I was grateful to be home from a long speaking engagement trip, yet something prompted me to stop, turn around and go back. I knew all too well that this, for better or for worse would be a moment in time worth watching, and perhaps I might even capture it on a cell phone camera. This father-daughter reunion scene was one that I did not want to miss.
So, I returned to the gate to find the father alone, anxiously awaiting the arrival of his daughter. I stood out of the way, but nearby to watch. The young man, casually dressed seemed out of his element with the hustle and bustle of the busy airport. He held the airport security’s ‘responsible party’ paper in one hand and the poster in the other. He bobbed and swayed around the people, anxious and emotional, to get the first glimpse of his daughter.
As I watched quietly, my mind was flooded with feelings and memories from my own childhood. Throughout my growing up years, my parents were married and divorced several times, both to each other and to other people. I know this life and I know it well.
I recalled the many times when my younger brother and I flew from Los Angeles to San Diego for a weekend visit with our dad. We even earned our “golden wing” pins from American Airlines and got to take pictures with the Captain. That was fun, but I also recalled times of fearful confusion. Once, my mother put us on a plane to Salt Lake City to send us to grandma’s house only to have my father arrive 3 days later and fly us back to L.A., this time with a restraining order.
Hard times for all to be sure. There were many challenging changes, new towns, new schools, and new friends—with several awkward moments. Like when it was time to meet Mom’s boyfriend, or Dad’s girlfriend. There were many hours wondering if our parents would ever get back together; wondering if we would ever be a family again. Or would we learn to make the best of this broken home, spending ‘quality’ time at Mom’s house – then Dad’s as the state of California deemed appropriate.
These thoughts raced back to my mind and heart as I watched and waited for this father-daughter reunion. I found myself wondering how old would she be. Would this be her first visit with Dad? Would she be a little girl accompanied by an airline attendant who had just given her a golden wing pin? Or would she be a bit older? A teenager, perhaps? Would she be excited to see her dad, or upset about being forced to spend summers with Dad as the court had ordered?
I pondered as I waited a few feet from the father. The thought came to me that this ‘moment,’ whatever it might turn out to be, would be one worth witnessing.
Passenger after passenger de-boarded and I could see the anxiety building in the father as he paced back and forth, standing on tiptoes to see around and over people as far down the gangway he could. Still, no one. No sign of the father’s precious cargo.
That mother had better have put her on this plane, I thought, recalling experiences of my childhood. Please, I prayed, for that young father’s sake, please let her be next.
After what looked like the very last adult passenger, the airline security people came through the door, leading several children. Yes! I thought, she will be in this group for sure. I watched as one by one, IDs were verified and the kids were connected with their respective adult. The excitement was so profound that I found myself holding my breath in anticipation. Finally, the look of anxiety on this father’s face softened, his eyes filled with tears of joy and love, as he beheld his “baby girl.”
Which one is she? I wondered. Then it became obvious. She was about 12 years old, tall and thin, with straight blonde hair and looked a bit like her dad. Tears flowed freely as they embraced and held on tightly to each other. How grateful I was to witness this beautiful moment. As they began to walk together, the father saw that I was ready to take a picture of them. He paused and motioned to his daughter to look at me. I knew instinctively what she was thinking. Who are you? Are you the new girlfriend?
I shook my head and said, “I am no one. I do not know you or your father. His sign caught my attention and it was just so awesome that I knew this would be a special moment and that perhaps I could capture it for you.”
She smiled and I took a few photos and asked for his email address.. They each thanked me for my time and walked arm in arm to begin their summer visit.
I stood there, so grateful for the experience, for the prompting I received to stop my crazy-busy life for just a second and embrace a moment that mattered. My heart was full, and my life was enriched by this experience. All it cost me was a few minutes of my time. I could have so easily missed it.
The speed of life these days is one of our greatest challenges. The world often seems spinning out of control. Information flies faster and faster, requiring our constant response to keep up. Faster and faster we go, sometimes unaware of why we are hurrying and missing so much along the way.
In a favorite scene in the Star Trek Movie “Insurrection,” a woman friend of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Anij appears to slow down time. A waterfall becomes a magical display of beauty, a hummingbird’s wings flap so slowly one can count the beats, and pollen blown from a flower floats softly in mid-air for the longest time. What an inspiring scene depicting what life would be like if we could control time. Of course, we can’t. We can however, control ourselves, the speed in which we live our lives, and what we choose to do with our time.
I agree with these words from Mormon Apostle, Dieter F. Uchtdorf. “One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles. Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list.
“The wise resist the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life. They follow the advice from Mahatma Gandhi. ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ In short, they focus on the things that matter most.”
Many of life’s meaningful moments are so easily missed in the crazy-busy of our daily routines. It is helpful to recognize that we are ultimately in control. We are the creators of this “chaos.” We have both the responsibility and opportunity to choose what we do with our time. The great thing is each of us gets to decide how often we choose to truly experience and embrace the moments that matter.
* * *
Five years following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, I had the privilege of speaking at a conference in New Orleans. There were many new buildings, streets, and parks with a stronger, more united, and very grateful city—much more so that when I had visited many years before. Early one evening a friend and I walked through the old town and decided to stroll down a new walking trail along the Mississippi River. There were many quaint little shops, restaurants, and street vendors.
Between the sidewalk and the river was a patch of new green grass, cool and comfortable. The couple who occupied this spot seemed an unlikely pair. She was a bit older, with straggly grey hair, a dirty dress, and no shoes. She lay on the grass without speaking to anyone at all. The man, on the other hand, had on a nice button-down shirt, though a bit wrinkled, blue jeans and sandals. He sat on one of three overturned plastic buckets and with two beat-up drumsticks, drummed on the two other buckets. He’s actually pretty good, I thought as I passed by.
My husband is a drummer and I felt it was only fitting that I put a dollar or two in the pie tin, which he had strategically placed on the sidewalk. The man stopped, and with his toothless smile said, “God bless you, ma’am.” I smiled back, nodding, and kept walking.
Much to my surprise he stood and shouted, “Wait! Thank you ma’am. Please come back. Come back, I have something for you.”
A little frightened, I wasn’t sure what to do. I stopped. We needed to get back to our hotel, we didn’t really have the time, and they were both a bit scary. But I called to my friend who had walked on and motioned for her to follow me. We turned around and went back.
The man smiled. “Thank you. God bless you.”
I asked to hear his story.
He shared his plight. “My wife and I,” he pointed to the woman sprawled out on the lawn, “lost everything in Katrina. Friends, family, our home, all of our possessions, and our livelihood. We migrated north for a few years and tried to make enough money to come home. We are now so blessed to be back. We are grateful for the mattress on the floor provided by a local church mission. It isn’t much, but it is a start. We love this city and we are looking forward to rebuilding our lives here. To thank you for your generous tip, I would like to give you something just from me. I do not sing very well, but I will do my best.” He rearranged his drums, picked up his drumsticks, took a deep breath and began to play “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It doesn’t get more real, more authentic than this. A seasoned gospel choir could not have done a better job!
On the banks of the Mississippi River, this grateful man sang with heart and soul. It was both inspiring and humbling. It was a moment that mattered to me and to him, and we embraced it. It is a memory I will forever hold dear. This was one of those moments that Maya Angelou was talking about when she said, “Life is not measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” To think what I might have missed had I not stopped my crazy-busy life for just a moment to listen to his story, hear his song, and connect in such a powerful way.
As I have reflected back on this experience, I wonder if I should have snapped a quick selfie with him, or tweeted #homeless #Katrina #survivor. Maybe I should have recorded a video for YouTube, blogged the experience, or posted it on Facebook. I could have even created a “GoFundMe” page for him. At the very least, I could have sent an email or text to my colleagues who were attending the same conference to come and hear him play. I did none of those things.
What I have recognized since is that any one of these things would have detracted from that very special moment in time. I would have been worried about how I might look in the picture. Was the lighting right? Would the video sound be okay? Would it go viral? Would I misspell something in my blog or would my text interrupt friends? Instead, I chose to simply live life and be fully present in the moment. To relish the connection, to really soak it in and to wholeheartedly embrace a moment that mattered. I am so grateful that I did.
* * *
She had heard me speak once before and although I do not recall our first meeting, I will always remember our second. Before my presentation, one of the conference organizers approached me to let me know that there was someone in the audience who wanted to talk with me. I told her I would be more than happy to chat with the audience member. That was of course, after X, Y, Z. I wondered who this audience member was, what she wanted, and why she had the conference planner ask permission.
As the event drew to a close, I noticed a lady hovering in the hallway near my book-signing table. Though with some trepidation, I was looking forward to talking with her.
The crowed thinned and she came forward to introduce herself. “I know that you probably don’t remember me, but I heard you speak three years ago at a similar event.”
“Oh yes?” I said. “It was a great conference, wasn’t it?” That is all I could think of to say. I remembered the event, but really did not remember meeting her.
She continued. “At that time, my life was in chaos. I had suffered several painful losses. I was unwell, depressed, discouraged and to be totally truthful,” she paused for a moment and choked back the tears, “I had planned all of the details and was prepared to take my own life later that night. I don’t know what prompted me to go to this meeting, I was not feeling up to it, but I went anyway. While I enjoyed your speech, it wasn’t what you said on stage that had such a profound, life-changing effect on me. It was what you did afterwards that made all the difference. There were a lot of people around and much to my surprise, you approached me and said, ‘You seem distraught; are you okay?’ Though I had said nothing to you about what was happening in my life, somehow, you sensed my grief. I responded with very little about what was really going on, but you were kind enough to take time to talk to me. You even gave me a copy of your book, one that I could not afford for myself. I know now you were a God-send. It was clear to me that someone did care and that perhaps I would be all right. I am here tonight just to thank you for the time you spent with me, for your encouraging words, and for the hope you re-instilled in me. It was that moment that changed the course of my life.”
As professional speakers, we understand what a privilege it is to have people’s attention. We have the remarkable opportunity to motivate, inspire, and encourage people. Sometimes our words become a catalyst for positive life-changing decisions. But the lesson I learned from this dear lady was that she was not moved by my platform skills, my entertaining presentation, or my book, but rather by my willingness to offer a few moments of my time to connect with and care about her personally. Richard Moss said, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
Time and time again, we learn that the most memorable experiences of life come when we are willing to slow it down, take time to truly connect, to love, and to serve others. I am grateful for these opportunities. My hope and my challenge to you is that you will choose to slow down from time to time and embrace the moments that matter.
What wonderful counsel we were give this week by President Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So much chaos and confusion in our world today. People are fearful, unsettled, worried, stressed, anxious, uneasy, sorrowful, and ever other burdensome emotion we can endure. I like millions of others are grateful for prophetic insight to encourage us to count our blessings in a very real and meaningful way.
I am listening and following through with his 2 suggestions. 1. To pray in thanks each day and 2 To post on social media each day, highlighting things I am thankful for with hashtag #givethanks. Take a look, millions have flooded the internet with hopeful, grateful posts helping us all to live in gratitude and to refocus and recommit to a life of joy and thankfulness.
Here’s a beginning of my list of blessings.
Day 1 Where do I begin my 7 Days of Gratitude posting? Seems best to begin with my parents, Pat Hansen and Bob May. I came into their lives then they were only 17 years old. I have always felt loved, appreciated and encouraged. I am grateful for the sacrifices they have made to provide me, my sister, and my brother a safe and comfortable home. I am grateful for my mom’s many creative talents and my father’s confidence and sense of humor. #givethanks
Day 2 Grateful for my brother Shaun and his wife Jeanne. I love you both and so very thankful your influence in my life. Looking forward to a wonderful time with you next week. I love and miss our sister, Melody Mitchell, who left us way too soon. Thoughts of you warm my heart and make me giggle inside when I think of your fun loving ways and all of our great memories. #givethanks
Day 3 #givethanks This guy! He is the most selfless, hardworking, genuine person I know and I am grateful and honored to be his wife. I am thankful for his tireless efforts to make life better for us and all those around him who can benefit from his extraordinary talents. I am inspired by his quiet strength, faith and unconditional love. Oh and #rocknroll
|Day 4 How grateful I am to be mom of these 3 incredible people. Our children, Craig Cook, Chris Cook, and Miranda Goodman are smart, talented, hardworking and above all, they love their family! I am inspired by their individual strengths, and they way they step up to love, care for and support one another. Also giving thanks for having Tyson Goodman, Christy Church & Melissa Hills Cook as part of our family.|
Day #givethanks for these incredible grandkids! I know, people think their grandkids are the best but, hello!!??? They fill my heart with joy, make me laugh, make me smile. These kids are life, hope and all that is right with the world!
|Day 6 “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the land which from our birth over and around us lies. Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.” #givethanks.|
|Day 7: I am grateful for the peace that comes to our world, our homes and our hearts from Jesus Christ. As I learn more about His life, His sacrifice, and His love, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I have felt the calm assurance that His spirit brings even in times of trial, heartache and uncertainty. I know that He lives, loves me and is watching over my family. As our society descends into chaos, I know He is aware of everything that is happening. I am grateful for the clear and calm direction from our church leaders, who provide strength, direction and assurance that He lives and that good will prevail. #givethanks.|
Today is my birthday. I am sixty-one. Over half-way home and if my genealogy is any indication, I may live another 30 – 40 years. My mom always says, we are made of stout stuff, and are pioneer tough.
I love genealogy and learning about my ancestors. I am Daughter of the Utah Pioneers with ancestors on all 4 lines who crossed the plains in the mid 1800’s and settled in Salt Lake City. I enjoy discovering where and when they were born, where they lived, and when and how they died. Interesting, but I relish the stories that have been captured in letters, interviews & journal entries which provide personal insights into their lives. I am inspired by their strengths, grateful for their sacrifices and for the blessings of my life. I often feel “watched over” by them as I go about my days.
Just this week I came across a letter from my 5th great grandmother to her daughter in Pontiac, Michigan. It was sent July 31st, 1847 from Winter Quarters, Nebraska as she, at the age 77, of was preparing for the trek west. Her letter included a list of the things she needed as the journey was long and she wanted to be as comfortable as possible. Here is her list:
“A bee and quilt skirt, nightcaps, and stuff for day caps (both black and white). A good tea pot, pocket hanker chiefs and plenty of snuff, tea, loaf sugar, rice, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, oil of cloves, hemlock, peppermint and tanzy, a rocking chair, some cotton stocking yarn, and a set of hair for Almira. I want all my children to send me a little keepsake that I may have it to look back upon and think of them when I am far from them.”
I just have to shake my head and smile. My life is so very different. The stresses and challenges faced by our ancestors are ones we cannot imagine. Yet, in our day, though we do not face the same physical hardships, we surely have our own burdens to bear.
I have been thinking a lot lately about life and death. About my time on earth, my decisions, outcomes, regrets, accomplishments, joys, and sorrows. I wonder, what will my loved ones remember about me when my life in summed up in a dash on a headstone between my birth and death dates? I often joke with my kids that I just want my epitaph to say, “She meant well.” Because I do, and in spite of my mistakes, I do try to love and serve, be an example of goodness, and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
Recently, our family has been forever changed by two unexpected, and devastating deaths. First, my sister Melody, who at the age of 47 died suddenly of pneumonia. The second, our son in law’s mom, our grandkids’ Nana, at the age of 63 from a stroke. Both were unexpected, shocking, and devastating. We are all still trying to adjust.
As I think of Melody, I remember her laughter and how she brought such overwhelming joy to me with her hysterical sense of humor. She loved life and taught her son Jesse, (12 years) to do the same.
When I think of Kris, I remember her for her genuine and unconditional love for her family. She was a giver in life and even in death as an organ donor. Our kids just received a letter from one of her kidney recipients. What a wonderful gift! Her selflessness has inspired me to also become an organ donor.
As I ponder the years that I have left on this earth, I have a renewed commitment to live a life worthy to be followed by those who will come after me. When my posterity and those I love, look at the dash on my headstone, may they remember me not just for meaning well, but for doing well.
In this challenging time in which we live, my hope for you is that you may find time to evaluate your life, have the courage and strength to make course corrections, changes and modifications needed to live your best life. May I encourage you to focus on what truly matters. To forgive, love, serve those in need, do more of what you enjoy, and make the most of your ‘dash.’
Perhaps like me, you wake up each morning wondering if there was an earthquake, or an explosion? If the government is still fighting? If COVID cases are going up or down? Our world is filled with crazy, chaos and confusion. And that’s exhausting.
So many things are simply out of our control, and that leaves us feeling helpless and so very unsettled. We know that things will never be normal again. But wonder what will our new normal be? Perhaps you have asked yourself these same questions, I share from a song, lyrics by Emma Lou Thayne from our hymn book:
“Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace When other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice, I draw myself apart, Searching my soul?
“Where, when my aching grows, Where, when I languish, Where, in my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only One.”
So where do you find peace? The photo I used for this article shows my little dog and I kayaking last week on a beautiful, Star Valley, Wyoming day. Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Yes, but I have come to know that peace is not a place. Peace is not a person or a thing. In fact, peace is inside each of us. Peace can be found even among chaos. It’s hard to find and even harder to keep, but I am grateful for still, calm moments that provide opportunity to connect with my Father in Heaven, find strength to meet my life’s challenges, and gather renewed hope for a bright, beautiful tomorrow.
May I share with you a few things that I do regularly to find calm among the chaos.
- Find a place of solitude and stillness. I love our rivers, lakes, and streams, but you may have a favorite park, a tree in your yard, a patio or even a quiet corner in your home.
- Turn off the noise, turn off the news! For more years that I can count, I have kept my cell phone on my nightstand. No more! It is in my room, (in case kids, grandkids call) but not within reach when I wake up. I spend my first moments of each day in prayer and meditation, quietly in my own mind before I let the world in.
- Try Yoga & Tai Chi. Though I am not the best at it, I enjoy these occasionally. They help me connect with my body, balance myself and clear my mind. I am intrigued by the history and science of these ancient rituals. I enjoy learning about energy and how it flows.
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. There are so many things to complain about these days. It’s easy to find problems; they are everywhere. In these trying times it is more important than ever, to focus on all that is right, good and positive. Work to see the good and be the good each day.
- Connect with higher power. Those of you that know me personally, know that I am a Christian, (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). I cherish spending time in study and prayer. I love learning and serving. I draw strength, direction and most importantly peace from my Savior. Whatever your beliefs, may you find ways to draw closer to your higher power and may you find your peace.
- Change your tune. Music has always been a powerful motivator for me. I have several energy up music playlists that I listen to when I exercise. Just as music can energize, it can also calm and soothe. Here is one of my favorites songs I listen to when I am seeking peace. Enjoy. There Is Peace in Christ.
I challenge you to spend some time focusing on your personal well-being. Commit today to create the time and space you need to reconnect to all that is good and right in your life. And may you find comfort, strength and peace.
Just before the ‘crazy’ my husband Roger and I enjoyed a cruise to the Caribbean. My are there some incredible yachts! Some with helicopters, private islands and full-time staff. It’s fun to see them and we especially like to read the names. Some are funny, some creative, some obviously very personal. One particularly beautiful yacht was named “Plan A.”
That name seemed so significant, and I have thought about it many times since. Sometimes find ourselves having little hope in our life’s Plan A and when it gets tough, move on quickly to Plan B, C, etc. as time goes on. It was inspiring to me to me to see that this yacht owner apparently kept his (or her) eye on the goal, stuck with it and was rewarded with what I can only assume is a dream come true.
Last week, we had some friends visit and we joined them on a white water rafting adventure on the Snake River. The guide, obviously very experienced, explained that there were only 2 plans for our trip. Plan A, the one where we paid attention, followed the rules paddled when and how he directed, and we all stay in the boat. Plan B, however, promised a vastly different outcome. Plan B, he explained was the one where some, if not all of us would fall out of the raft because we failed to trust our guide and follow his instructions. We all took a vote. Plan A it was. He made his point well and as none of us were keen on going for a swim, we listened and obeyed the rules with careful precision.
Plan A was hard work! We had to listen carefully to his directions, follow through as directed and stay focused on staying on the boat, even through level 3 and 4 whitewater rapids. Fun, but sticking with our Plan A took commitment, dedication and follow through even through the most difficult times.
Such it is with our lives. Right now, we all seem to be focused on responding to the chaos, trying to survive, and preparing for what may come next. Much of our energy is being consumed with uneasiness, anticipation, and uncertainty. Plan A may not seem even remotely possible right now, as our lives have been derailed, sent off course, and upended by things beyond our control.
Like the rapids on the river, this too will pass. Many prayers for calmer waters ahead, but in the meantime, we must stay in the boat, hold fast to our Plan A, and keep paddling.
This is our third summer here in Star Valley, Wyoming and again, I am still on the hunt for wild huckleberries. They are an awesome little fruit, good for you, rare and hard to find. But now, finally, thanks to a friend, know what I am looking for and where to find them! Yahoo!
Last summer, we were excited to see all of the berries surrounding our home. Beautiful white flowers in the spring and loaded with berries in late summer. Someone told my husband that they were huckleberries! Knowing that they go for about $50 a Ziplock bag full, I was sure we would be rich! We had struck gold, right on our own land.
We invited some friends over to pick some. Sure enough my friend, her husband, another family, and lots of kids with buckets came over ready to pick. My friend promptly asked, “So, where are they?” “Everywhere!” I exclaimed. To my embarrassment and disappointment, she said, “Those are not huckleberries, they are service berries.” Not even close! Ugh!
We enjoyed the night with them and the next day I picked buckets of service berries. It turns out this berry is well-known and used for many things. In some areas they are called Saskatoons. Service berries are not very juicy or tasty, but our grandkids and I made muffins and they loved them on their ice cream. (I learned that if you add enough sugar you can make anything into syrup).
This year our bushes are loaded once again with service berries, and I’ll use them, but I want huckleberries! My husband, Roger, kindly asked, “What is the big deal about huckleberries? Can’t you just plant some, or buy them frozen?” So, I started thinking. Yes, I suppose I could, but I was pretty stuck on finding wild ones in the woods. And I finally did!
I know now that the huckleberry bush is low to the ground and the berries are almost impossible to see from a standing position. (Even when you are only 5’2). While some berries are easy to pick because they grow in clusters, huckleberries grow one by one on single branches underneath the leaves.
I went out again today and all the while I was picking, I kept asking myself why this was so important to me. Why was I set on finding wild huckleberries? Then this insightful quote from Thomas Paine came to mind:
“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only
which gives everything its value.”
And isn’t that true of so many things? We take for granted things that come easily – and relish, prize, and value those things that take a bit of effort. Or in this case, a lot of effort!
Last week, I took 3 of our grandkids to hunt for huckleberries and 2 of them gave up almost immediately. But, my little 4-year old granddaughter, Hadley, stuck with it and hit the jackpot. She was proud, and I was prouder. She and I took our little bucket of berries home and made syrup for our pancakes the next morning. Just the two of us. “To the victor goes the spoils.”
Knowing in our hearts that it would be impossible for our little dog Zoey to survive the -21 degree temperatures, our hope was that someone picked her up and decided to keep her. After 3 subzero nights, that was the only scenario we could live with.
On Friday, January 16th, 2016, amidst one of the coldest and snowest winters on record, Roger and I were on our way from Alpine, WY to Jackson, WY to stock up on food and supplies. The week ahead was to be treacherous. When we stopped for gas at the Alpine Junction Chevron station, neither of us noticed that our 2-year old little Morkie had jumped out of the car. It was only 20 miles up the canyon that we realized that she was not in the back, as we had expected, but that she must still be at the gas station.
In a panic we called the Chevron station. “Yes, she said, “we saw a little dog running around the parking lot.” Please bring her in.” I pleaded. “We are on our way!” We quickly made our way back down the icy canyon road to rescue our Zoey. Our hearts sank when we arrived and she was nowhere to be found. We called, searched, drove, walked and hiked for 4 ½ hours. Asking anyone and everyone if they had seen her. People were kind and sympathetic, offering to “keep an eye out” and “spread the word” and “pray for her.”
Surely someone has picked her up. But why haven’t they called? She had a tag on with her name and my phone. We called the vet, the sheriff’s office and Lucky’s Place, the local humane society. All were kind and sympathetic, but I could hear in their voices that at this point, it was likely that we would never see her again. And with the temperatures, well…
Our desperate prayers were pleas for help that she would be safe and if not, that our hearts would be healed from the loss.
By Saturday afternoon, the hard truth began to set in. There was no possible way she could have survived the night and if someone had her, surely, they would have called us by now. With each passing hour, the prospects grew dimmer. Saturday passed into Sunday and we began to feel the emptiness.
On Monday, beyond all comprehension, and in disbelief we received a call from an awesome family that Zoey had been found! They had seen her running through their field and assumed that she had found shelter under their shed. She was wet, cold and scared and would not come to them or let them catch her. She just kept running. They took photos and tried to zoom in to see if they could read her tag, but to no avail.
This great little family, The Dales, went above and beyond to rescue her. Adam & Gretchen put out a wild animal trap with some food on Sunday night.
They caught her on Monday morning and brought her in to warm her up and called us. We, of course dropped everything and through roads were closed, schools had been shut down and the county was calling for no unnecessary travel, we went to pick up our Zoey. She was about 1 mile north of the Alpine Junction where we left her. Safe, but frozen, exhausted, hungry and thirsty.
Today, she is bundled up on the sofa with her little toy lamb, warm, fed and loved more than ever. Words cannot express how grateful we are for the power of prayer and for this kind family who knew how much this little dog needed help. They refused our reward asking us to pay the kindness forward. What a great lesson they have taught their two daughters, Juniper and Hazel. Thank you for your example of goodness and caring.
As I close this remarkable story, may I share with you a poem that I learned when I was little. “All creatures great and small, the good Lord watches over all.” Indeed! And please enjoy this song that has been playing in my head this morning. Consider the Lilies of the Field. We are beyond grateful. May we show our gratitude and do as the Dale’s asked and pay it forward at every opportunity.
One of my favorite walking routes is to follow a dirt road next to a canal. The canal flows between residential backyards and farmland and I always enjoy seeing the animals and watching the farmers as they tend to their early morning chores. One Saturday, I stopped along the way to admire a beautiful tree loaded with hundreds of perfectly ripe, delicious apricots. The tree had grown over the canal and there appeared to be no way to reach them. Apricots are one of my favorite foods and I knew I just had to find a way. As I surveyed the situation, a fellow canal road walker stopped to chat with me about her experience trying to pick some of these un-reachable, but oh so desirable apricots. She said wading into the canal was not a good choice. Apparently, she got stuck in the mud at the bottom of the canal and decided it was just not worth it.
All the way home, I discovered that I indeed, wanted them badly enough to find a way. The words of my BSCI partner Janean Hall, came to me – “What’s another way?” The minute I walked in the door, I told my husband Roger about my plan. I would put a plank over the canal, walk out onto it and reap my rewards. He looked at me as if to say, “You’re an idiot” but just smiled and said that he did not think I could heave a board all the way to the other side. We might be able to use the extension ladder, he suggested! That is what we will do. So we loaded up the ladder and off to the canal we went. My daughter, 9 months pregnant and her daughter 4 were amused to say the least, and decided to join us on this adventure.
Roger surveyed the situation and decided that the ladder would not work either. He suggested that the only way would be a raft. A ha! Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? A float tube would do just fine. So back to the house we hurried as if someone else would claim our prize before we could return. But alas, success! My granddaughter Baylee and I floated down the canal until we reached the apricot tree. I grabbed a limb and we started picking apricots by the armloads – we would fill our bags and they would reel us back to the shore to offload our take and back again for more. What fun!
Many of our neighborhood friends have mentioned how they, too admired the apricots. And one said he wondered what had happened to them. One day they were there and the next day they were gone. Hmm, like magic – yeah right!
In life, whatever ‘it’ is for you, you must want it badly enough to do those things that others are not willing to do. You must be willing find another way when your first, second and third attempts fail. It takes courage, creativity and sometimes a little insanity to reach further, dream bigger and aspire higher in order to reap life’s greatest rewards. And sometimes it is not what we are thinking. The true reward here was not really the apricots – it was having bread and jam on the porch swing.
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Dug, our adventurous, 10-month pup met his first porcupine. Not only did they meet, but they scrambled, tangled and ran in and out of the bushes over and over again. Not sure why, but he did not seem to grasp the simple principle that all actions have consequences and some of them hurt! He kept going back and back and back. Finally, my daughter and son in law were able to pull him away from the porcupine. With quills in his paws, his mouth and nose, off we went to the nearest country vet. With sedation, a few hours and of course, $200 all is well. But lesson learned? We don’t think so.
Truth is, I can relate. Perhaps you can too. From time to time, I find myself doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity? Some of us are just slow learners, I guess. Unfortunately, the results and outcomes of many of our decisions are beyond our “here and now.” They are in the future far enough that we fail to make the connection.
I do wonder, however if timing doesn’t have something to do with it. We seek for instant gratification without considering the connection our actions have to our long term outcomes. We love to eat things that are not good for us, often without thinking of the consequences. Maybe, if we gained weight instantly! Or got sick immediately, we would be less likely to make that choice again. Sometimes we buy things we just have to have in that moment and if we can’t afford it, we charge it! Ignoring that the time will come when we need to pay the fiddler. If the bill was due the next day, would we make that same choice?
I would like to think that I would do better if my choices had immediate consequences. You know, like chase a porcupine get shot with painful quills.
On a good day, I get it. I make smart choices. Other days, well, I am just a Dug.