Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day 73: Picking up where I left off...

Wow, it has been a while. Life kind of sailed on me over the summer. It feels good to be back on the gratitude blog again. Today I'm grateful for 'My Best Boy Daniel Boone' as I like to call him. He is an amazing boy. He and I had an amazing time together this summer hiking in and spending the night at Pittsburg Lake. Here's a quick photo show of our adventure.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Day 72: Our Patio Swing

It seems during the summer that this patio swing becomes the center of attention. I can't tell you how many times I come home from work and the kids are out back on the swing. During the day they'll lay down on it and read a book or sit together and just rock back and forth while they talk. It is so relaxing to just gently rock back and forth. The other night after the kids went to bed my wife and I just sat and watched the moon.

We had a lemonade party recently for all of the women in the neighborhood. The over 60 club arrived early, took their spots on the swing and stayed there for three and a half hours. I peaked out for a second to talk to these sweet ladies and they proudly told me, "We got here early, staked our claim, and we're not budging." Well, who is going to kick three grandmas out of their place?

Somehow rocking gently in the swing with all of the trees and flowers around you brings peace and relaxation. It seems natural to socialize with those around you. It draws people closer together. I'm grateful for our patio swing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Day 71: First Fish

The first fish I remember catching was at a lake by my Grandpa's house in California. It was a little sunfish. We had been fishing for quite some time and all I had managed to do was get my line snagged. It was time to go so I decided to try and get my line free and reel it in. I got it free and started dragging something heavy in, I thought it was a stick. Boy was I surprised when that stick turned out to be a fish.

A couple of weeks ago I was setting up a pole for one of my girls. She was excited to finally have a real hook on her line. My oldest son already had his line in the water. I heard some excitement behind me and turned around just in time to see my son pull his first unassisted catch out of the lake. What a great thing that first fish is.

Day 70: City Champs

I've never been into baseball much myself. In fact, I think I'd get struck out by most of the little league pitchers I've seen in my son's league. But my oldest son seemed to have a real interest in baseball so we signed him up.

My son isn't particularly talented at baseball but he has improved tremendously over the season. He was fortunate to be placed on a very good team. They won the City Championship and are heading to a multi-city tournament. I'm grateful for the good people, players, coaches, and families that support my son and this team. I'm grateful for the excitement my son has experienced being part of it. I'm grateful for the smile on his face as he collected his trophy.

Day 69: The Beauty of the Earth

God's goodness and glory is all around us. Need I say more?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Day 68: Getting Lost

I've been lost a few times in my life. I don't think I'd ever intentionally get lost but there is something to be said for the opportunity of finding your way back or being found. It can be a life changing experience.

I remember wandering for several hours one night in Dublin. Eventually I realized that I had no idea where I was. I was hungry and I needed to use the bathroom something fierce. I had dreams of finding some fine dining but my need for a bio-break found me walking into the first hole-in-the-wall grease pit I came across. I wasn't there for the food, but in hopes of finding a bathroom. It became clear that the bathroom was not for lost passers-by so I ordered the fish and chips and made a beeline to the bathroom.

I ate some so-so fish and chips and then asked the proprietor for directions back to my hotel. Boy was I relieved to get my bearings again.

Sometimes we aren't physically lost but mentally, emotionally, or spiritually lost. During these times it also feels great to get your bearings again. It is hard to appreciate how good it is to be 'not lost' until you've been lost.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 67: I don't have to eat bugs

At the camp for young men that I helped with this past week one of the activities was a 'Fear Factor' activity. Each team of boys had to choose two out of their ranks that would compete. The reward - the right to eat dinner that night. Each boy threw a spear across a field toward a target painted on the ground. They ate what ever corresponded to the number closest to the spear. The items: sardines (not too bad), gold fish (just swallow, don't chew), live crickets (definitely chew), night crawlers (best when swallowed with water), and meal worms (apparently not much flavor but kind of crunchy).

I think I could eat any of these if necessary (or simply if dared to). In fact, I've eaten everything on this menu except gold fish at some point in my life. I guess I'm grateful for two things. 1) I don't have to eat bugs all of the time 2) Young men that somehow find this amusing (some even came back for seconds). I have some great video...

Day 66: The Word of God

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

2 Nephi 32:3
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Isaiah 55:2
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Revelations 7:17
For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

2 Nephi 4:15
And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

Day 65: Marlin

Marlin walked to Church with his wife last Sunday. He wasn't feeling well so he stepped out of the chapel to get some air. Shortly he came back in to get his wife to help him home. They walked around the corner to their house, hopped in the car and drove to the emergency room. Marlin passed away the next evening.

We both moved into the neighborhood about the same time. We first met about ten years ago in a landscaping class held by the community. Although he was much older than me we formed a quick bond in our love of beautiful landscapes.

It wasn't possible to talk with Marlin without feeling uplifted. He was a humble, happy person. He never pretended to be more than he was. The intent of this blog is to express those things daily for which I feel profound gratitude. Today I feel a profound gratitude for my dear friend Marlin.

Day 64: Sacrifice

A favorite hymn of mine, Praise to the Man, includes the phrase, "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." I know that is true. To sacrifice is to give up something of value for something of greater worth. The greatest people who have ever lived in this world are remembered in part because of their sacrifice. I wish the principle of sacrifice was more directly taught in the world to day. The world would be such a better place. It is hard for selfishness and sacrifice to co-exist. When we sacrifice our own desires or pleasures for what God would have us do, we are truly able to unlock the powers of heaven in our behalf.

I'm grateful for sacrifice it truly brings forth the blessings of heaven.

Day 63: Love

I've been thinking lately about what an amazing thing it is to love someone. I find that my heart is increasingly filled with love for all around me. It is becoming a tremendous force in my life. I'm beginning to believe that there is nothing that cannot be conquered by love. My heart grows larger and softer. I'm moved to tears several times a day by what I see around me, both the good and the bad. My life has found a new richness as I've increased my ability to love. I'm grateful that I can feel love.

Day 62: Sleeping out in Thunderstorms

I love extremes in nature. I think it is especially thrilling to be camping out during a great storm. Nature seems to peak in beauty during a thunderstorm. The power displayed is amazing. Nothing man made seems to compare except perhaps nuclear weapons. Is it that feeling of being in and a part of nature that I get from hunkering down in the mountains and waiting out a storm? Perhaps it is just the age old plot of man against nature that thrills me. It certainly has a way of centering me and humbling me. I've camped out through some nasty weather over the years. It amazes me now to think that there is one who can command and calm the storms.

We usually think of storms ending with a rainbow. This was the introduction to a spectacular night of rain, wind, hail, lightning, and thunder.

Day 61: Ropes and Logs

There is something exciting to me about the proposition of building things out of ropes and logs. Over the years I've built all kinds of towers, tables, tripods, bridges, you name it. It never ceases to amaze me how three little sticks lashed together can hold so much. This past week I taught about 80 teenage boys the basics of building things with ropes and logs. Their final test at the end of our time together was to build a tripod and see if it could support the weight of a 300 pound football player that was there with us. I was amazed to see a small tripod built from sticks about 3/4 inch in diameter hold the 300 pound lineman.

Here's a couple of snapshots of a monkey bridge I built to show the boys what could be done and to let them have some fun during the camp.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Day 60: How Gentle God's Commands

I was reflecting yesterday on a special experience I had while living out of the country for a couple of years. I had been out of the country for just over a year and was starting to feel somewhat worn out and home sick. Then I received a letter from my father where he shared that he had been feeling worn down and discouraged. He told of sitting in church and singing a hymn which raised him out of his gloom. I opened the hymnal and read the words to the hymn. My burden was also lifted. To this day it is one of my favorite hymns. It always uplifts me. It always reminds me of the very special experience I shared dwith my Dad that day through a letter. The hymn is titled, "How Gentle God's Commands." The Lyrics follow.

How gentle God's commands!
How kind his precepts are!
Come cast your burdens on the Lord
And trust His constant care.

Beneath His watchful eye,
His saints securely dwell;
That hand which bears all nature up
Shall guard His children well.

Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your Heav'nly Father's throne
And sweet refreshment find.

His goodness stands approved,
Unchanged from day to day;
I'll drop my burden at His feet
And bear a song away.

Day 59: Prayer

Prayer is a powerful force in my life. I pray often throughout my day. We pray as a family. We pray over our meals. Sometimes I just pray to express my gratitude. Other times I pray to ask for the Lord's blessings upon me, my family, and those that I care about. God hears and answers my prayers. Through prayer I can come to know him. I can feel him near me.

Yesterday my Mom sent this scripture reference to me.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)

The Lord loves us so much and is so anxious to hear from us and bless us.

I also love the words of Jesus found in the book of Matthew chapter 7.

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

I'm grateful for prayer.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Day 58: Socks in My Undershirt

I love pulling on a clean undershirt and finding one of my kid's socks stuck in the sleeve. It brings a smile to my face and centers me before I head out the door into the hectic world. One day I didn't find the baby sock until I got to work and it fell out of my shirt sleeve onto my desk. What a pleasant surprise!

Day 57: Eternal Families

I believe that families can be together forever. I was taught this in a powerful way from the time that I was young. I have a brother about a year and a half younger than me who died when he was about 18 months old. I think about him from time to time. I don't know how much I really remember him or the events surrounding his death. It seems to have always been a part of me. One of my most reinforced memories of my younger brother are the times we spent as a family around his grave. We would often sing the song, Families Can Be Together Forever. I'm grateful to know that families can be together forever.

Day 56: Toilet Paper

I'm grateful for toilet paper. Need I say more?

Day 55: The Leftovers of Play

Kids have a way of leaving leftovers from their play. You walk into the room where they were playing and see the remnants of a city or fort they built. Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to clean up after themselves but sometimes I come across some artifact of their play that is so choice I'm actually glad they didn't clean up.

Day 54: Mountain Hikes

On memorial day we brainstormed with the kids about what they'd like to do that day. They had many great ideas (including one who said "Learn to read!"). We voted and did the ones that had unanimous votes. Here's what we did.
  1. Go on a picnic and a hike in the mountains
  2. Have a barbeque
  3. Go to Narnia night at the botanical garden

We had a great time. Our hike however was the climax of the day. The air was amazingly clear. The temperature was just cool enough that you'd be warm as you hiked. We went about a mile up the trail and turned around to see an amazing view of our favorite mountain. It was wonderful to be together. It was great to feel invigorated as all of our sense were on overload from the sites, smells, and sounds around us. I love hiking in the mountains.

(see full sized image)

Day 53: Fresh Cut Flowers

Spring and summer in our home are accompanied by fresh cut flowers. My wife hates to see flowers go to waste. So she finds flowers that can't be seen easily out the window, patio, or the street and she cuts some in their prime. There are almost always fresh flowers on counter during spring and summer. I love their beauty. I love their scent. I love that the children love to smell them and look at them. I love that my wife loves them. Some people like to bring a pet in out of the heat. They feel an attachment or bond of some sort to their pets. We don't keep pets but we love to bring our flowers in close to us where we can get the maximum enjoyment from them.

Day 52: Fat Little Legs

One of the things I enjoy most about babies are their fat little legs. It seems that the plumper they are the more fun they are to hold, kiss, and watch. Isn't it odd how once you get to a certain age fat little legs are no longer cute? There is nothing better than a 12 month old in a onesie showing off gargantuine legs. At what age is this no longer cute and why? All I know is that one of the highlights of my summer so far is my baby boy and his chubby thighs.

Day 51: Exercise

I really like exercise. There is something about pushing your body to the limit that is invigorating. Your mind is more active. Life seems more productive. I have a goal to be able to keep up with my youngest child when he is 18. I'm grateful for a body that grows stronger when it is pushed. The process of tearing down a muscle and letting it regrow stronger is the the natural process of strengthening. It is how we grow stronger in so many ways, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I'm grateful for exercise.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Day 50: Swallowing

I spent some time today with my brother-in-law who had a liver transplant two and a half weeks ago. He is still in intensive care but progressing. I've visited him several times but today was the first time that he was alert enough to really have a conversation. I asked him what he might most like to be blessed with so that I'd know how to better focus our faith and prayers. He said that first he wants the ability to deal with the intense pain and nausea that he feels constantly. Second, that he would be able to eat some ice chips. Third that he would not be disoriented so often.

His response to the question of what he would like to be blessed with is amazing to me. He did not ask that the pain and nausea be removed, only that he could bear it. He did not ask to be able to eat a large meal, simply to be able to eat ice chips - the first step in testing to see if the digestive system is ready to start reintroducing food. He didn't ask for all of his struggles to be gone, but to have a grasp on reality through it all.

We spoke briefly of his family and I assured him that they were all well cared for. We spoke about the peace he and I both felt and our belief that, even though he has literally been fighting for his life these past weeks, we had both felt impressed that God intended to spare his life. I told him of my love and admiration for him. Then I left feeling grateful for so many little things like being able to swallow.

Day 49: Sitting with My Sweetie

I've just been sitting on the couch talking to my wife. It is one of my favorite things to do. I believe our relationship is rather unique. I don't know of two people that are happier together. We're not old-timers nor are we newly-weds. We're coming up on a respectable 14 years in another month. The thing that amazes me is that the more we're together the more we want to be together. We never feel the need to take a break from each other. We always wish we were at each others side in everything that we do. I'm profoundly grateful just to sit on the couch and talk to her.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 48: Barbeques

It's that time of year again. We love having barbeques. Sometimes we'll have over lots of friends and family, other times just us. There is something about hotdogs, hamburger, bratwurst (my personal favorite), steak or salmon cooked out on the grill that makes it taste so much better. Of course you have to have baked beans, chips and fresh fruit to go along with it.

It takes more than just the food to have a great barbeque. Location is critical. We actually designed our back yard with great anticipation of barbeque season. The back patio has a special nook for the grill. The trees and beds that surround the patio make a little shaded oasis. The play yard just off the patio and the play house across the lawn can keep an amazing number of kids occupied while their parents socialize.

Then there is of course the company. I love having friends and family come over. It is great to relax in the shade on a summer afternoon eating great food and watching the kids play.

The food, location, and guests make up the key elements to a successful barbeque. The thing I enjoy most about barbeques is the relaxation that comes from the perfect combination of these elements. I think if I'm ever President of the United States (which I won't be) and there is some big international confrontation that needs to be settled, I'll just invite all of the key parties over for a barbeque. No lawn darts though - I'll only go so far down the red-neck trail.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day 47: Sunrise

One of the most magical things to me is to see the first ray of the sun come over the eastern horizon. It is spectacular. You think it is light outside and then when that first ray breaks through you realize how dark it really is compared to the full strength of the sun.

I've seen the sun rise on several different continents. It doesn't matter where you are, city, mountains, plains it is always magical. It doesn't matter whether the sun breaks through the morning fog, glistens off the top of snow-capped peaks or simply appears without clouds or scenery around it. It is always magical. I love to see the pure light of the sun fill the world. I love to feel its warmth, to watch it melt the frost or evaporate the morning dew. I love the way the flowers turn their heads and follow it through the day. I'm grateful for the sunrise.

Day 46: Shaving Grandpa

One of the most memorable experiences in my life is the time I spent caring for my Grandpa in the last few years of his life. He had been paralyzed in half of his body for about 45 years prior to that time (the result of a car accident). When my Dad, my brothers and I first started taking turns helping with his care, we would go over in the morning, help him get out of bed, take a shower, change his bedding, shave his face, make sure he got his teeth in right and help him get dressed. Needless to say, it was a very tender thing to care for him in such a personal way. I particularly enjoyed shaving his face and putting after shave on him afterwards. I would often tease him about trying to impress Grandma with the after shave. When he was ready for the day you'd help him into his wheel chair and out to the kitchen for breakfast.

I remember one day going up to help Grandpa and he couldn't get out of bed anymore. The ritual changed. We learned to give him a sponge bath, change his clothes and change his bedding with him in the bed. At this point Grandpa's feet had become extremely sensitive and ticklish because of the lack of use and long-term paralysis. Putting his socks on was always an interesting experience.

It never ceased to amaze me how happy Grandpa was, how much love he felt for those around him and how grateful he was for the smallest thing. He couldn't speak much because of the paralysis. You were lucky to get more than a couple of words at a time from him. He would always say, "Thank you. Oh boy, thank you." His thank you meant so much. You could feel how deeply he meant it. It came often but always had that same impact.

Today as I think about those times when someone does for us what we don't have the power to do for ourselves. I remember many other times when I've received or given this type of assistance. No matter which side of the situation I'm on these experiences tend to be very personal, touching the tender parts of my soul. It is often a spiritual experience. I believe the spiritual nature of this special kind of service stems from the way it emulates the supreme service that Jesus Christ performed for all of God's children. He did for each of us what we could not do for ourselves. When we in turn do for others what they cannot do for themselves, we are emulating his miraculous gift to us. It is very tender, very personal and very individual.

I'm grateful for those tender moments spent doing for Grandpa what he could not do for himself. I'm thankful for all around me who do for others what they cannot do for themselves. I'm especially grateful for He who did for each of us what none of us can do for ourselves.

Day 45: Simple Service

I've been thinking about that wonderful feeling you get when you do some simple act of service for someone else. Somehow you always come away with more than what you gave. If you're unhappy with life, simply stepping outside of yourself and serving someone else does a world of good. If you love someone, service is a great way to show it. If you're grateful for your blessings, blessing someone else's life is the natural course.

As a boy my Dad was always signing me and my brothers up for some type of service in the neighborhood or church congregation. In fact, one time we were camping several hundred miles from home at a reservoir where we'd never been before and where we've never been since and the next thing we new he had made arrangements with the local ranger's station for us to get a bunch of trash bags and clean up the stretch of picnic areas along the beach where we were camping.

I know I've referenced this type of upbringing before but it has had such an impact on my life it tends to be a recurring theme. I hope in some small way I can pass this on this on to my children.

This past mother's day the kids were extremely excited when we made breakfast for Grandma and Grandpa (my wife's parents). They took over two plates of breakfast, like the ones below, and some flowers freshly cut from our yard. It was obvious when they came home that they had felt that amazing feeling that comes with simple acts of service. I'm grateful for simple acts of service.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Day 44: Gratitude

Today I'm thankful for gratitude. It is a powerful force in my life. It centers me. As I look around and reflect on life, searching for those things for which I'm most grateful, I see many new things each day that I could write about. Each one is a reflection of the truths of life and the reality of God.

As I think on these things, my heart begins to quicken and then it seems to swell within my chest. This sensation rushes through me coursing outward. It swirls through my head providing a daily cleansing as anything that is dingy or quagmired is flushed out my eyes. My mind and soul are renewed. My vision is cleared. My love for God and those around me is deepened. I find it that much easier to be a little more patient and a little more kind. I find so much that makes me happy.

I am grateful for gratitude.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 43: Refrigerator Magnets

If you want an insight into my family, just come take a look at our refrigerator. It seems to reflect the shared consciousness of our home. The dozens upon dozens of magnets fasten the symbolic fabric of our family life to the fridge. May we always have magnets to hold us together.

Day 42: Paper, Crayons, Scissors and Tape

As I sit at my kitchen table contemplating what it is that I feel gratitude for, my eyes are drawn to the many works of art plastered on the kitchen wall. It amazes me what kids can do with some paper, crayons, scissors amd tape. I count 17 works of art currently on display. These are just the latest of perhaps thousands of masterpieces turned out at the kitchen table over the years. Each one is a reminder of the unbounded imaginations of my children. Each piece of art is truly unique and beautiful in its own way. I'm grateful for paper, crayons, scissors and tape.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day 41: A Nurturing Mother

Most mothers have a nurturing quality about them. It comes to them naturally. My own mother sacrificed much to be home where she could nurture my brothers and sisters and me. As I was thinking about what it was that my mother did to nurture me it became hard to describe succinctly. I can however offer several quick examples of her nurturing capacity in action.

Someone to play catch with
First, I recall a time when I was in Jr. High School. Jr. High School is a hard time of life in general. On this particular occassion it seemed especially challenging to me. My best friend moved out of state. He was the only friend my age that lived within a reasonable distance of my home. There were other boys my age that lived close by but I really didn't get along with them. There were younger boys close by that I got along with but the age gap made things uncomfortable. It seemed to me that everyone had a friend but me. After moping around the house for days on end my mother finally confronted me with the situation.

I was in my room crying on my bed. She came in and talked with me, rubbed my back, and did all those things that moms know how to do to really make you feel loved. When she discovered the source of my sorrow she offered some profound advice. Rather than try to convince me of the friends I might find in the neighborhood or at church, she taught me of another friend. She told me, the Lord can be your friend. He can take away your loneliness. Well I already knew what she was teaching me, but I didn't understand it. My response to her was, "I know, but He can't came and through a football around with me." What she taught me that day didn't bring me immediate relief but over the years that have passed I've come to know the Lord as my most true friend. Anyone can find someone to play catch with but it is a true blessing to have the Son of God as your friend.

What would Jesus do?
Another experience that comes to mind is a lesson she taught one family night. I was pretty young, probably nine or ten years old. The point of Mom's lesson was to try to do what Jesus would do. She told us that whenever we had to make a choice in life we should simply ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" and then do it. Well, I'm by know means perfect at this but I can recall many situations where I've been much better because I remembered these simple advice. It is really amazing how well it works and how quickly seemingly difficult decisions become simple.

One final experience. It was Christmas time. From a young boy’s perspective, things looked bleak. There were 8 children in our family. I was the fifth. I was sure that this year’s Christmas would consist of hand-me-down clothes from my brothers.

We had a family tradition of helping others during Christmas by doing the 12-days of Christmas for families more needy than us. That year I remember thinking there couldn’t be many families more needy than us. Mom and Dad were convinced there were. As we took the presents and left them anonymously on the doorsteps every night I remember feeling at first that with every gift given, my chances of presents for myself were diminished even further. Of course the spirit of giving began to win me over. That and Mom’s reassurance that she had been able to set aside $600 for our family. I did the math, 10 family members, $60 a piece. There would be presents after all.

The Sunday before Christmas the Bishop (church leader) had a special meeting after Sacrament Meeting. He spoke about the building fund. Our Ward was short. We needed more funds. Surely he couldn’t think to ask us. We only had $60 per person as it was.

After Church I was heading to the car when I bumped into my Mother coming out of the Bishop’s office. She had tears in her eyes. She had given the Bishop our $600 dollars. The Spirit had told her to give it. She went straight to the Bishop and gave it before she could shrink from the task. I recall few times when I have felt more love and gratitude for my Mother. Lead by my Mother, our family shared in consecration that Christmas. My greed and pride were gone. I was filled with love and gratitude for my family and my Savior.

And so it always is with consecration. It is hard up front but we are filled with that sweet peace and love in the end. And perhaps more importantly, our spirits are refined – we are brought closer to God.

After writing this it has become clear to me what it is that my mother did through her nurturing. She taught me to know God. Thanks Mom!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Day 40: My Mother-in-law

Many people seem to struggle to get along with their mother in-law. Not so with me. I love and respect her greatly. I am often amazed by her energy, enthusiasm, zest for life and all around gusto. It seems that the rest of us were born with impaired vision - she always sees so much more in life.

Here are some of my favorite Mother-in-law quotes:
  • An inch of milk
  • A square of toilet paper
  • A dab of whipped cream
  • Spores in the swamp cooler
  • Jiggers
  • Thank you!
  • I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord

Here are some words that come to mind when I think of her:
  • Generosity
  • Gusto
  • Faith
  • Comfort
  • Celebration
  • Can do
  • Make do
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Love for life
  • Love for others

There are many reasons why I'm grateful for my mother-in-law but the one I feel most grateful for today is that she has taught me there are so many more reasons to celebrate life than I had ever imagine. Life is much happier, much richer and enjoyed at a whole new level because of her.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day 39: Grandma P.

Grandma P. was one fiesty lady. It never ceased to amaze me how much energy came out of her small form. In her later years osteoperosis had so consumed her that she was barely 5 feet tall. That is probably 8 inches shorter than she was before her back started to collapse.

She was an extremely hard working and generous person. She was a single mother most of her life, raising three boys on her own. She survived her 3rd husband (Grandpa P.) by more than 20 years.

It is hard to imagine that she was ever a little girl. I have many pictures of her at about this age, playing at the lake, running around with cousins, having a good time.

Grandma P. made great lunches. We always looked forward to anything she prepared even if sometimes it was a little strange to us (pear halves with mayonnaise in them??).

I've been thinking about her lately. I miss her. I love her. My life is better for having known her. I'm amazed at what she suffered and overcame in her life. I remember her quilting and painting the most amazing things long after her hands were so arthritic that she couldn't open them. I look forward to seeing her again after this life. She is one of my happiest memories.

Day 38: Thrift Stores

My wife took the kids to a local second hand thrift store the other day looking for good deals on clothes, etc. They grow so fast that it doesn't seem worth it to by new stuff, especially for summer play clothes. The girls were rather pleased to come home with some new dress-up gowns and a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse shoes for each of them. Our youngest daughter was so excited about the shoes that when I found her in the kitchen during the middle of the night getting a drink of water, she had taken the time to put on her new shoes before coming out of her room. Actually, I wonder if she slept with them on??? It wouldn't surprise me. Anyway, I'm grateful for thrift stores and anything that can bring so much happiness to one of my girls.

Day 37: Diapers

This may seem strange but I'm grateful for diapers. When I'm home I'm on diaper duty. Changing diapers is a wonderful chance for one on one play. There is nothing better than pulling baby out of the crib in the middle of the night and changing his diaper before passing him off to mom to nurse. He gives big smiles and giggles and looks at me as if there were nothing on Earth that he adores more. That is an amazing feeling to have someone look at you so lovingly, with so much adoration. It pushes all of the concerns of the day aside, wipes the tired crabbiness from my eyes and makes me feel truly grateful. I'm grateful to be able to change diapers.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day 36: 1 Year, 1 Month, and 15 Days

1 Year, 1 Month, and 15 Days - that's how much time separates me from my next older sibling in age. It was his birthday this past Sunday and he's been on my mind a lot lately.

As you can imagine we were close growing up. We experienced a lot together. Much more so than I did with my other brothers and sisters. Sure we had our typical sibling rivalry but I don't think we ever tried to kill each other or anything (except maybe that time when he sped out of control down the street with me hanging onto the luggage rack).

We understand each other perfectly (or so it seems). I know him almost as well as I know myself and visa versa. We've been accused of having our own language. We don't, but often others can't follow our soft, mumbled, rapid paced conversations that are full of so much inside knowledge and reading of each others minds that it would seem we must have developed a new tongue. A mere grunt accompanied by a slight inclination of the head speaks volumes.

There are few people in the world that you can trust completely. I don't mean that I could trust completely, but that can be trusted completely regardless of who you are. He is one. There are also few people in the world that have so many idiosyncrasies. He is truly unique.

Inside the rough idiosyncrasies seen on the outside is a generous and compassionate soul. He feels deeply, especially for others - even complete strangers. Most people don't know that about him.

He is the one that, when a boy got beat up by our friend in elementary school, stayed behind after the crowd dispersed, put his arm around the crying boy, helped him into the school and took care of him.

When we got lost on a boy scout outing and I got cold he gave me his jacket and took care of me (and the rest of us).

When we were boys (our wives think we still are) we discovered everything together. Our adventures are too numerous to name but would make a great epic tale of boyhood.

Because he was a year older, he showed me the ropes in most things. It wasn't until later that I realized he had a different and far superior set of ropes than most people.

I ended up taller than him. It was during this passing him up phase of my life that I first discovered he was 1 year, 1 month, and 15 days older than me. He informed me of this on a regular basis and was always ready to demonstrate what this meant.

Now that we're both grown with families of our own, I look back and realize what a part of me he is. He will always be my big brother. He will always be an example to me. We will always share a closeness that can't be replicated. We would gladly offer any sacrifice for each other and it would never cross our minds that we were sacrificing. He will always be 1 year, 1 month, and 15 days older than me. For this I am grateful.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Day 35: Vickie

As I mentioned in Day 34's post, my mother was unable to be there with my sister during her husbands liver transplant. Vickie, my mother's dearest friend spent perhaps eight or ten hours at the hospital with my sister.

What I didn't mention yesterday was how much this act of loving kindness meant to me. While I didn't talk to Vickie about it, it seemed that because of Vickie's love for my mother and our family she was determined to do for my mother what she could not do herself. This was true friendship, unselfish love and sacrifice. She offered that same comforting and calming influence that my mother would have if she were there. She leant that same rock solid faith to all around. Several times it seemed that my mother was really there with us. We were all uplifted and strengthened by her presence.

What an amazing friend she is. I don't believe many are as blessed as my mother to have such a dear friend. I doubt that Vickie fully understands what she did for our family yesterday. I suspect it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to her to be there when her dear friend could not.

I have a deep love for Vickie. I thank her for her support to my family and for the friend that she is and has been to my mother. I thank her for exemplifying to me the following passage.

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— (Mosiah 18:9)

I'm grateful for Vickie.

Day 34: Miracles

I was about two blocks from the hospital last night when I got a phone call from my Dad. He quickly mentioned that my brother-in-law, who was at that moment about 8 hours into a liver transplant surgery, was not looking like he would survive the surgery. I was going to visit my sister who had been at the hospital since the night before. I nearly had to beg her to get some small task that I might do to help her. The assignment - bring dessert, a pillow and a blanket. Somehow the two cupcakes and two brownies I had to offer didn't seem to fit the current reality.

Because my parents are away serving a mission for the LDS Church, they weren't able to be there. Other siblings had not been able to make it to the hospital yet either although we had all been more or less in constant contact with her throughout the day.

Dad's update on the situation was sobering. He was calling the rest of the family to inform them of the seriousness of the situation and asking them to pray and exercise their faith in behalf of my brother-in-law and those who were caring for him. I quickly said a silent prayer and called my wife and asked her to gather the family that was with her together to pray as well. At that same time my sister, a close family friend, and the member of the transplant team (who had been sent with the news that he might not make it) were also praying together. I don't know how many were praying at that time. I suspect it was close to 100 or more friends and family.

When I arrived in the waiting room with pillow, blanket, and dessert in hand I quickly took in the scene. My sister, my mother's best friend (filling in for my absent mother) and the member of the transplant team were the only people in the waiting room. It was strange to see this kind woman from the transplant team and realize that just like in the movies, she was the one that comes into the waiting room to tell everyone that the patient is not expected to live.

I was surprised at my sister's state of mind. She was resolute in her faith. Determined to trust in God and accept His will. There she was, staring death in the eye and saying "Thy will be done." Then her attitude changed slightly and she simply said, "Now is the time for renewed faith."

Several hours later the main surgeon came out to inform us that they had finally made it past the critical juncture. The turning point in their progress had coincided with the flurry of prayers in behalf of the medical team and the patient. My brother-in-law was in surgery for 16 hours. Twice as long as the transplant team had expected. After the surgery was complete the head surgeon again came out to update my sister. He explained all that had happened. He said it had been a long, hard, grueling surgery. For the first 8 hours of the surgery he did not believe my brother-in-law would live through the surgery. Then the renewed faith and prayers and the mercy of the Lord helped the surgical team to see away to make it work. The doctor told my sister that of the 250 or so transplants he has performed, this was by far the most difficult.

There is no question in my mind that I witnessed a miracle last night. Not just one miracle, but many small miracles.

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up... (James 5:15)

I'm grateful for miracles. Somehow those simple words don't seem to adequately express the depth of my gratitude to God for what he did last night. They seem trite. Their simplicity almost seems to mock the true nature of what I feel inside. What can you do when words are not sufficient to express what you feel? All I know to do is ask again for another tender mercy from that God to whom I am so indebted. If it is the Lord's will, in His tender mercy perhaps he will communicate to you what I feel in my soul for Him.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Day 33: Veterans

I know it is not Veteran's Day but as I looked through my photos I saw this one and it reminded me of the profound gratitude I feel for all those men and women who have sacrificed in anyway to protect our country.

This is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

As I think of those that have offered so much to protect our nation I can't help but think not just of the sacrifices of those who've served but also of those they have left behind. I feel tremendous respect for anyone that has taken their turn, risked their life, postponed dreams, laid anything upon the alter of sacrifice to make our country what it is today.

A few years ago I was at a school play. It was a patriotic program. Before the play began they played the armed forces medley and asked as the song for each branch of service was played for those that had served or the family of those that had served to stand and be recognized. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I saw men and women, young and old, stand and be recognized.

A couple of summers ago I was at a week long boy scout camp. At one of the campfire ceremonies they asked for all of the veterans present to come forward. A group of well-seasoned and gnarled men stepped forward and stood at attention saluting a flag that was being retired and smoldering in the fire. I was not the only one wiping tears from my cheeks.

Perhaps I should have waited for a patriotic holiday to write these thoughts but the truth of the matter is that nearly everyday is a patriotic day for me. I cannot see a flag without being choked up. I love this country and what it stands for. I feel profound respect and gratitude for all those that have made it so.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Day 32: Eyes

I'm not talking about vision, I'm just talking about eyes. In particular I am amazed at the beauty and depth of eyes. Just among my children we have a range of amazing eyes.

Our first child has blue eyes. Not a deep blue, but more of a sky blue. They are amazingly clear. They are amazingly blue. They squint up some at the corners when he smiles. These eyes were made to smile and laugh. On the rare chance that these eyes are sad they pierce you with remorse. How could something that was meant to smile take on such sadness?

Our second child has green eyes. These aren't just ordinary green eyes, they are magic green eyes. At the center if you look close enough you can see little splashes of brown. She gets this from her mother. These eyes are magical for many different reasons. The most amazing thing to me about these eyes is their ability to communicate so completely and precisely. I really believe that if she had no other way to communicate, other than through her eyes, child number 2 would get by just fine.

The third set of eyes are a deep chocolate brown. Not a dark chocolate but a rich milk chocolate. I've spent a lot of time staring into the layers of brown looking for an end. I can't find it. There is so much depth. It is like looking at the reflection of one mirror in another, it just goes on and on and on. Everything about these eyes including the skin, the eyebrows, and lashes around them have a warmth, depth, and richness to them. Like the warmest, most welcoming place you could possibly imagine.

The fourth and newest set of eyes are grey. They too have small touches of brown within them if you look closely. The brown isn't clustered toward the center but can be seen at certain angles depending on the light reflecting off of them. These eyes are so pure and clean. It reminds me of the experience you have when you think you're looking at something really white until something truly brilliantly white comes along and redefines the spectrum. I thought I knew purity and innocence until I looked into these grey eyes. The spectrum has been redefined.

I'm grateful for eyes.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Day 31: Hard Questions from Children

As a dad I get hard questions from my children all the time. I try as much as possible to answer their questions with the truth rather than copping out with answers like: "Because" or "God made it that way."

A few years ago one of my girls asked me a question that surprised me at how difficult it was to answer. She asked, "Who is Heavenly Father?"

We are a very religious family. We've taught our children about God and read scriptures with them since they were new-borns. In fact it was while we were reading a passage of scripture that referred to Heavenly Father that she asked her question.

I explained to her what I know about God. He is the father of our spirits. We are His children. He is your father. This last concept startled me. Not that I question whether God is my father, but the realization that by teaching my daughter that God was the father of her spirit like I was her father here on Earth, I had become the glass through which she would view her relationship with God. I felt ( and still feel) a tremendous burden not to distort her view of God by fogging the window.

If she is afraid of me, will she be afraid of God? If she thinks she is not important to me, will she think she is not important to Him? How will my relationship with her help or hinder her relationship with Him?

I'm not a perfect father by any means. I am constantly aware of how my actions influence my childrens' view of their Heavenly Father. I am grateful for the hard and often profound questions that come so freely and innocently from my children.

Day 30: 7 X 70

Years ago when my wife was still in college she performed with an improvisational dance group. As you can imagine, improvisational dance is well - improvised. Sometimes it is great and sometimes not. One particular dance they performed stands out in my mind still today.

I don't remember if there was music. Perhaps just a big barrell drum pounding a steady and increasing beat. About 15 dancers moved through a large space in increasing chaotic patterns. As the beat quickened the movement of the dancers increased in speed and intensity. There was a tremendous feeling of tension within the room. Dancers were cutting each other off and bumping into each other. As the tension increased toward an inevitable catastrophe, one dancer suddenly stopped and said softly, "forgive me." Another dancer immediately responded,"I forgive you." Several dancers embraced, others exchanged those same words. Instantly all was at peace, all was healed, all was forgiven.

When everything around us seems out of control and in chaos, I'm thankful for the calming, healing power of those simple words, "Forgive me. I forgive you."

A friend told a story of a dream he'd had after being 'stabbed-in the back' by a co-worker. His heart had turned bitter. He was wallowing in his spite. He could not find the power to forgive. Then he had a dream. In the dream he was in the emergency room. He had several knife wounds in his back and the knives were still there. Because of the pain he felt he did not want the doctor to remove the knives. The doctor told him that he must remove the knives or he would die. In refusing to forgive, even when those who have offended are not seeking forgiveness, we only hurt ourselves.

Another friend of mine taught that we are required to forgive all men. How many times are we required to forgive 7 X 70 (maybe that means we shouldn't keep track). He also taught that as many times as we sought His forgiveness he would forgive us.

There is healing in forgiveness.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

day 29: Kindness

Since I've started this blog I've spent a lot of time looking for things for which I am grateful. It has been a wonderful experience. One of the things I've noticed is the tremendous amount of kindness I see around me everyday.

People who have never met each other and may never meet each other again offer gentle acts of kindness to each other. They hold the door open at the convenience store. They let someone go first in line. They offer a smile or let someone merge into their lane. Someone drops something and another picks it up and returns it. Each of these acts seems small and simplistic yet I believe the cumulative effects are far reaching.

I'm not naive enough to believe that all people are kind to each other all of the time. I'd be happy if that were true just in my home, let alone in the world at large. I have however come to believe that kindness outweighs meanness.

So to everyone out there practicing kindness - Thank you! Thank you for your kindness to me and those that I love. Thank you for your kindness to each other. Thank you for your daily contribution toward brightening the world. I know that only the rare passer-by will read this post but don't let that diminish the sincerity of my gratitude to all kind people everywhere.

Imagine a world where everyone was kind to each other. What a wonderful world that would be.

Day 28: A Whole Team of Robbies

A couple of weeks ago (April 13) I wrote about the kind boy, Robbie, on my son's baseball team. Well, it seems that my son's team is a team of boys like Robbie. Its not just the team either, but all of the parents and families seem to be out of the same mold as Robbie.

This is a picture of my son striking out. This is the first game he's ever played in his life, the first time he's ever been up to bat, and the first time he's ever struck out. The thing that this picture doesn't capture is the cheers and shouts of encouragement that errupted from the audience as he struck out. You would have thought he had just hit a home run. It was by far the loudest and most enthusiastic cheering of the game. All of them meant to support my son and in a very real way they all supported me.

What these wonderful Robbie-like people don't understand is that my son can't hear well enough to realize that they are cheering him on, encouraging him, pulling for him. He can only hear out of one ear. He uses a very strong hearing aid on that ear. Even with the hearing aid when he is clear over at home plate with a batting helmet covering his hearing aid, he has almost no ability to hear anything going on around him. The really strange thing is my son doesn't need the encouragement and support being offered. He is perfectly excited to have gotten up to bat regardless of how he faired. I, on the other hand, am quite touched and strengthened by their support.

Day 27: My Left Foot

I won't disturb the world with a picture of my foot. My feet aren't particularly attractive. My wife says they remind her of grasshopper feet. You never realize how good you've got it until something gets messed up. Well, my right foot is kind of messed up. In fact, it is rather awkward to walk around. No matter how I try I can't seem to relieve the pain in my right foot. I suspect it is a stress fracture. I really don't want to go to a doctor. It seems whenever I go to the doctor because of some strange ache or pain they look at me like I'm a total whimp, tell me there is nothing wrong with me other than the pain in my knee, foot, hip, etc. After I leave I'm sure the doctor and his staff all have a good laugh at the expense of that guy who just needs to suck it up and stop whining about little aches and pains.

I'm not so happy with my right foot tonight. It is keeping me from running (which I really enjoy). I am particularly grateful for my stalwart, pain-free left foot.

Day 26: Pedicures

The other night my wife called me from her cell phone. It was her night out. Once a week I try to let her have an evening off without kids, that she can do whatever she wants. She called to tell me that the pedicure place was open and she had just finished getting a pedicure.

She was clearly ecstatic and rejuvinated by the pedicure. I thought to myself, you know, I'm truly grateful for anything that can bring her the joy she deserves. Oddly enough, today I feel profound gratitude for pedicures.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Day 25: Stars

Last night I lay on my back gazing up into the clear night sky unpolluted by the lights of civilization. Before I dozed off I picked a small section of the sky and tried to count the stars. They could not be numbered. Twenty times or more I woke, rolled over, glanced at the stars wondered at their quantity, their distance, their randomness, their order and tucked down into my sleeping bag again.

Who put them there? Did they do it just for us stargazers or is there some grander scheme?

Day 24: A Compass

I've recently been teaching orienteering skills to the boys in our scout troop. As I worked with them it struck me how amazing the compass is. It has been around for thousands of years with relatively little change in its features and function. It is incredibly reliable and consistant.

The information presented on a compass is transparent, there is no guessing. Things are either at a certain bearing or not. If someone came down this path before and told you to go due North for 500km to hit the mark you can be assured that the course is set and constant for all who follow.

How nice it would be if we could be so transparent in our course - letting all that cared to observe us see exactly where we are going. How nice it would be if the paths we navigate through life could be marked with the same precision as a compass course. How wonderful if we could rely on direction given to us as completely as we can a true compass.

We each have an internal compass. The direction, the constancy, the transparency is there within us but for some reason we refuse to look. Somehow we look outward for our direction, we question our true compass.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Day 23: Mountains

I have always lived at the base of mountains except for two years of my life when I lived in an extremely flat portion of Europe. Mountains give me a feeling of security. I feel vulnerable when they aren't around offering shelter. Mountains offer direction. I remember as a small child learning which way was east or west not by the sun, but by the mountains. The big mountains were to the East, the small mountains were to the West. For a period of time we lived on the other side of the mountains. I wasn't very old but I remember realizing that these mountains which were now on the West were the same mountains that used to be on the East. Having them close by helped me feel secure, helped me know where home was.

When I see the snow-capped peaks rising up above the valley, the first rays of the sun breaking out across the valley, or the pink reflection of the sunset on the Eastern slopes, I'm overcome with gratitude. I wonder about the master artist that could create such grandeur and beauty. The creations of man seem insignificant in comparison. I feel gratitude for the creator of these mountains, their majesty and beauty.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Day 22: Strolls Along the Beach

I love the feeling of walking along the beach. The feel of the sand, the salty air, the rhythmic waves and the treasures that wash up on the shore offer tranquility and peace. There's something about watching fresh footprints disappear in the surf and the feeling of the sand eroding out from under your feet as the undercurrent pulls back into the ocean that never loses its mystery.

I associate beaches with family fun. I associate them with peace and crispness.

My favorite time at the beach is sunset. How many times has the sun sunk down into the ocean sending its rays shooting out for miles and miles across the waves? Perhaps millions and yet each time it is the firts time. Each time it is new. Each time is a one of a kind.

A walk along the beach has the power to push all cares away and leave behind just those things that are dear. The waves come in and go back out washing away the sand and leaving behind the treasures in my mind.

Day 21: I'm Grateful for My Ancestors

Over the past few years I've started to get into genealogy. Not that I'm a great genealogist, I just really feel a draw toward my ancestors. I've had many amazing experiences as I've worked to find them and learn about them. It gives me a greater sense of who I am. It is mentally challenging and spiritually fulfilling. In some ways it also is an expression of my gratitude to those that have paved the way before.

This is Deodat Brewster. He was born in 1789. How cool is that? He is a direct descendant of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower. Deodat is my 4th Great Grandpa which means my family has been in the United States for a long time.

This is an artist's sketch of Deodat's home in Wisconsin in 1873.

I fully expect to meet my ancestors after this life. The more family history I do the more I look forward to meeting them.

Day 20: Spring in the Front Yard

We've put a lot of work into our flower beds. Each spring I forget how spectacular the front beds look as everything bursts into bloom. This picture is about 2 weeks from the prime of our spring color. Nearly every inch of our front beds will be covered with whites, pinks, purples and yellows. The lilacs will come into bloom and just as that all fades the first round of roses will come on. At last count we had about 45 different rose bushes throughtout the yard. I'll have to post about roses when the time comes.

I think part of why I love the front yard in the spring is the work my wife and I have put into it to make it come about. We love working together in the flower beds. There is nothing quite like the feel of good soil in your hand.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Day 19: Little Hands

I'm grateful for these two little hands. They are small and delicate. They have the most interesting gestures and they find the most amazing things. They fit snuggly into mine. They reach to me for security and I feel secured. They reach out for comfort and I feel comforted. They reach out to be lifted up and I am uplifted. These two little hands offer so much that is good.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Day 18: Bagpipes and Tulips

Bagpipes and tulips may seem like a strange combination. But as I walked through the annual Tulip Show at a huge garden this evening and heard a piper in the distance playing Scotland the Brave, it all seemed to fit together nicely. What is it about the bagpipes that reaches into the deepest part of me and stirs my soul. Am I the only one that gets teary-eyed whenever I hear them? Perhaps it is the generations of Scottish blood within me recognizing something about my true nature. Somehow the reverberation of the pipes seems to be a natural part of me. The bagpipes make me feel like I've come home after being away for ages. Only it is a home I've never been to.

A few years ago I spent a day in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was probably there less than 24 hours. As I walked around the streets during lunch It seemed as if I had a sense of the generations that had gone before. They seemed to be all around me and again I felt at home.

I love the bagpipes. Somehow their chant is a natural part of me. They pierce my heart. They make me feel more alive. They help me understand more about who I am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Day 17: General Conference

I've almost finished listening to General Conference again. It is really an amazing thing. It is so rejuvinating, so instructive, so full of the Spirit of the Lord. I really enjoyed Elder Nelson's talk about marriage. Elder Eyring's talk about becoming like a child to survive the challenges ahead was also very powerful. I love to hear from President Hinckley and President Monson's talk during the Priesthood session was hilarious and uplifting.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity we have to listen to Apostles, Prophets, and other leaders of the Church. I used to work around the house on Saturday while I listened to the Saturday sessions. For the past several years I've stopped doing that because I just want to listen. This year I was supposed to be coaching the girls basketball team during the afternoon session. There was no way I was going to miss conference so we all stayed home to watch it. I mentioned it to someone later in an off-handed way and they thought I was joking about not wanting to miss conference enough to skip basketball practice. I'd give up just about anything to be able to listen to conference.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Day 16: High Speed Corners

Do you remember when you first realized that you could go really fast around a corner on your bike? Then you made a little course with three or four corners perfectly spaced so that you could take each corner with maximum velocity. You were totally one with the bike.

Today while driving down the street I saw a little girl who seemed to have discovered the joy of high speed corners. The wind was blowing through her hair and stirring the streamers at the ends of her handle bars. The late afternoon sun made the glitter paint on her bike sparkle. She zipped down the sidewalk, turned sharp across her lawn, careened through the carport and cornered back onto the sidewalk over and over again. She radiated excitement and joy. For a moment I was seven years old racing behind her feeling the elation of high speed corners once again. Watching her was almost as good as discovering the thrill for the first time myself.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Day 15: Choral Music

This morning while doing the dishes I was listening to a combined Choir from Brigham Young University sing some spiritual music. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the song and the depth of the message it carried that I soon had tears streaming down my cheeks. There is something powerful about a great choir singing great music.

Want to hear this song? Here's a link to the mp3. The song is 8min 45sec into the mp3.

Here's a link to the lyrics.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Day 14: Family Home Evening

Each Monday night (or at least most Monday nights) we have family home evening. We do different things. Usually we start and finish with a song and a prayer, have a spiritual lesson of sorts and sometimes play a game and have treats. Other times we may do an activity, go on a drive, to a movie, to Grandma and Grandpa's house, etc. I love being with the kids, learning and playing together.

Recently for family home evenings we've been working on memorizing The Articles of Faith. Our oldest finished memorizing them tonight and the second oldest is nearly done. The third child isn't quite ready to memorize them but enjoys reciting them with us and the 4th child can't talk yet.

After working on The Articles of Faith we played charades. Man do we have some hams in the family. Then we had our closing song and prayer and Mom read the last chapter of Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis, to us. Sure there was some craziness and even a few quarrels before we were finished but all in all we had a great time, learned together, and strengthened our relationships with each other.

I'm grateful for family home evening.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Day 13: He is Risen!

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6)

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 32:32)

And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.

And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:

Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did aworship him. (3 Nephi 11:15-17)

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness. (Alma 9:9)

I am grateful that He is risen!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Day 12: My Neighbors

I love my neighbors. I'm not just talking about the people that live on both sides of me. I feel an ever increasing love for everyone that lives near me and with whom I work or socialize. It is an amazing thing to mourn for those that mourn, to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, to rejoice with those that have cause to rejoice, to love your neighbor.

Recently one neighbor lost a son that was born premature. He lived 3 hours and then passed away. I've shed many tears and offered many sincere prayers for them. I don't worry about their premature baby, he's moved on to a great place. I feel the grief of those that are left behind. Similarly I rejoice that another neighbor has finally found a job after being laid off 6 months ago. I am also amazed at the new baby girl across the street and feel a thrill each time I talk to the proud father and mother.

Why? Because we are all spirit children of the same Heavenly Father. As my heart increases in love for Him and His Son, He fills my heart with love for all of His children. This is especially true of those in my neighborhood. I believe that many around me feel this same way. I'm constantly amazed at the love, concern, service and sacrifice that my neighbors offer to each other. I am grateful for my neighbors.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Day 11: Weeds

It may seem strange to feel gratitude for weeds and yet I am deeply grateful for weeds. I've learned a lot from weeds over the years. I have a healthy respect and awe of them. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are amazingly resilient. Others are rather easy to control and get rid of. So why the gratitude? Weeds represent the opposition. Somehow I enjoy my flower beds more because of the energy I have to exert to overcome the weeds.

Among the more resilient of weeds in this part of the world is a monster called bind weed. It is often mistakenly called morning glory which is not a weed but a beautiful flowering vine. Bind weed is almost impossible to irradicate. Sure you can pull out the green stuff above the ground. You can try to pull out the roots. You can spray it with any number of weed killers. You may get on top of it for a season but it always seems to come back. Sometimes with extreme diligence over a period of years you can get rid of it. It has been in my quest to rid my yard of bind weed that I've realized how much bind weed is like the vices and addictions in our lives.

You can pull out the bind weed and the surface of the flower bed looks clean for awhile but if you leave even the smallest bit of the root structure behind (and it is almost impossible to pull out all of the roots) it will regenerate into a new plant. What was once a single plant becomes a dozen as each of the small pieces of the root system regenerate. So it goes with the vices in our lives, we can remove the surface signs of our sin but unless we get out the last bit of the root structure we run a high risk of the vice coming to the surface again. About the only way to get rid of the bind weed is through constant vigilence at removing the plant when it surfaces and planting other stronger plants in the bed which will eventually dominate and prevent the bind weed from being able to establish a hold.

So it goes that in the weeding of souls we must dig deep, suffer some pain, and get all of the roots.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Day 10: Robbie at baseball

Tonight I took our oldest to baseball practice. This is the first time he has ever played baseball and only the second practice. He has never been inclined toward sports - atleast not until the past year.

Toward the end of practice I overheard the following conversation as two of the boys on the team watched Daniel take his turn trying to pitch the ball (the first time he's ever stood on a pitchers mound and tried to pitch a ball...).

Boy 1: "That boy has a hearing disorder."
Boy 2: "So, what does that matter."
Boy 1: "I just thought maybe you didn't know. I'm not racist or anything."
Boy 2: "He's doing a great job."
Boy 2: Yelling at the top of his lungs - "Way to go! Great pitch! Keep up the good work!" As the ball stops in the dirt well short of the catcher.

Boy 2 is named Robbie. On Day 10 I'm extremely grateful for boys like Robbie.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Day 9: My Truck

OK - I like my truck. It's not fancy but it is comfy. I fit in it and it takes me interesting places.

Something about pulling a large load through lots of mud makes you feel accomplished. For instance, load the bed with gear and water drums then pull a trailer with outhouses on it through a totally muddy four wheel drive trail.

Last summer Truck and I slid off the road with some big river rafts and a canoe trailer. As if that wasn't bad enough, I had 5 teenage girls in the cab with me screaming "We're going to die!!!" If only I had pictures of that one.