Sunday, June 9, 2019

My Little Elizabeth

            He walked slowly, reverently, down the little path lined with yellow and purple pansies.  He vowed that for as many summers as he is living, this place would never be free of flowers.  It brought him great comfort to wander in the hothouses and pick out flowers he knew she would have loved, and then give them to Amy, Jo and Meg to lovingly plant and care for.  As he came closer, he could hear the faintest sound of ringing bells.  That was Jo’s idea.  The girls had tied small bells to some of the plants so when the wind rustled the leaves, there was the beautiful silvery sound of bells.  “Beth needs music,” Jo had said, “And she shall have it.”
            “Drandpa Lauwence,” came the small voice from the girl at his side, and the small chubby hand in his pulled loose and tugged on his jacket.
            “Yes darling Bess,” he answered softly. 
            “We going to see Auntie Beff?” the golden-haired child smiled up at him. 
            “Yes Princess,” he replied and a fresh pang of sadness tore at his heart as he thought about how the girl who had brought so much light, love, and music to their lives, would only exist through stories to her small little namesake.  He loved that Amy told Bess that Aunt Beth was a beautiful guardian angel who would always watch over her and inspire her to do good things.
               They arrived at the grave, and even though it had been five years since her passing, Mr. Lawrence took in a sharp breath as tears stung in his eyes.  Five years later and still the thoughts ran through his mind, “If only…” If he only he hadn’t been in Europe.  If only he could have used his money to send her to the best doctors, on as many holidays as she needed.  If only he could have done something.  When he had first arrived home from Europe, he had had long late night talks with the Marches, as they told him about the final year and assured him that there was nothing anyone could have done.  And yet he knew perfectly well that they were all haunted with the same question. 
               He thought back to that day at the house, when they came to say goodbye to the family before leaving for Europe.  He tried to remember every detail of that day, the last time he would ever see her.  He had been so consumed with thoughts of the trip, worry over his boy’s broken heart and disappointment over Jo’s decision to reject the proposal, he hadn’t been thinking of much else. He had made his rounds, saying goodbye to each of the girls and his good friends.  Finally he came to Beth and smiled down at her, brushing his finger down the bridge of her nose and saying softly, “Goodbye my Elizabeth, whatever shall I do without my girl?” He saw her eyes light up as they always did when he called her “my girl,” and then he saw something else happen, as if a cloud had suddenly rolled in.  Her eyes looked as though her heart were breaking. 
             “Darling, what is it?” he stepped closer to her, and for one brief moment, he considered cancelling the trip.  But the storm passed as quickly as it had come on and she smiled again and then hugged him tightly. 
            “Goodbye Grandfather” she whispered into his jacket.  It was the first time she had called him that and he had been so delighted at this display of affection that he had almost forgotten his anxiety over the strange look in her eyes.  He gently kissed her forehead and left.  

               The letter from Jo would come six months later.  The tear stains on the paper saying more than the actual letter.  He still remembered the awful feeling as he had realized that Beth had known she would not see him again.  He felt as the air was sucked out of him as he read the words, “There is not much time left.”   He was determined to cut his trip short and go home but Jo wrote of how Beth pleaded for him not to come on account of her.  It broke his heart, but he would abide by her wishes. Jo would later tell him on one of their walks together that Beth had not wanted him to suffer the way he had when his little granddaughter Patricia had died.  If he were away, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt so much.  Perhaps he would be able to forget a little easier.   She was wrong.   He wrote letters and sent little trinkets he hoped would make her smile: music boxes that played her favorite melodies, sugar plums, brilliantly colored postcards.  For a time, she would small simple letters that talked of anything else but herself.  They would always be signed, “With Love, Your Little Elizabeth.” He treasured those letters.  Then one day, a letter arrived that was shorter than all the rest.  It simply said,

               “Dear Grandfather, I am not like Jo.  I don’t know the words to say what I feel.  But please know that I am so grateful to have been your girl.  I hope I can be as good of an angel as Patricia.  I will tell her how good you have been to me.  I love you, Your Little Elizabeth.”

                He wrote back and told her that he was not good at finding the words either, but he loved her as dearly as if she were his own flesh and blood.  There were no more letters after that, and he was haunted with thoughts of her final days.  With a spiritual fervency he had not known in years, he pleaded with God to ease Beth’s suffering and to let her release from life be as gentle as possible.  The letter from Jo came on a cold and rainy day.  There wasn’t much, just a line about Beth’s peaceful passing and gratitude expressed to him and Laurie for all they had meant to Beth.  Laurie had left immediately to go to Amy and so he was left alone with his grief.  There were moments in the next weeks and months that he could feel Beth’s presence so clearly that he could almost hear music, the beloved old tunes he would ask her to play for him. It helped so much those first few months.  As time went on, and to his delight Amy and Laurie became engaged and then shortly married, he found himself caught up in life again and the pain slowly got better. 

               Still, as the time came to return home, his heart ached at the thought of visiting the Marches and seeing Beth’s place empty.  He knew there would be no more summer twilight evenings listening to her playing the piano for him, but even still as he opened up the house and saw the piano in the music room, he forgot for a moment, only to have reality come crashing down again.   When he had visited the Marches, he tried to focus on the person he knew was feeling Beth’s loss greater than anyone.  When the time was right, he had put his arm around Jo and whispered, “You must be my girl now,” And with that statement came the promise that he would watch over her and be a devoted grandfather and friend all the rest of his days. 

                The years had passed, bringing more marriages, more children, more laughter and tears that sealed his heart to the March family more than ever.  Now, here they were, five years later.  The little Elizabeth who stood beside him and held onto his thumb, had not taken her aunt’s place, no one could do that, but had brought more joy to him than he had known in a long time.  He reached up and wiped away a tear from his eyes, and then lovingly brushed his hands over the words on the headstone, “Elizabeth March. Our Angel in Heaven.”

               “Drandpa Lauwence,” Bess quietly said as she tugged on his jacket sleeve. “Auntie Beff is the sweetest angel in Heaven.”
               “Yes Princess,” he said softly.  “She certainly is.

                 He looked up into the sky, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on his face, “Until next time my little Elizabeth,” he said as he took Bess’ hand and turned to walk away.   A soft wind came up and he could have sworn he heard the bells gently ringing out the melody of his favorite hymn.  He smiled, knowingly.  

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The "Happy" Books

Half-Magic by Edward Eager: This is a delightful book about siblings who want to have an adventure during the summer.  They find an old coin and don't realize at first that it has the power to grant wishes.  There's a catch however, it only grants wishes in half of what the person asks for.  It's such a sweet funny feel-good story. This is the first book in a wonderful series!

An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott:  This is one of my favorites.  If you like Little Women, you should read this book.  It's the story of Polly Milton, an old fashioned girl who comes to visit her modern city friend Fanny and her family.  Fanny's family has a lot of problems and Polly is a sweet and happy influence on them.  There are some beautiful love stories and wonderful messages about the power of family, friendship and girl power. 

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett : This may not seem like a very happy story, but it definitely is an inspirational one.  I loved reading it again.  For anybody unfamiliar with the story, Sara Crewe is the daughter of a rich young man who comes to live at a boarding school and is treated like a princess.  Something happens that completely changes her life for the worse and she has to decide that through everything, she can be a princess inside and persevere.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Trust me, as good as the movies are, the book is better.  I have read this book several times and each time I read it, I am better for it.  There are so many beautiful messages.  The characters are so real and wonderful.  There is a lot in the book that the movie leaves out.  If you are unfamiliar with this story, it is the story of four sisters coming of age while their father is away serving in the Civil War.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott: The continuation of Little Women.  This is the story of Plumfield and the school that Jo and Professor Bhaer set up.  All of the March family make appearances too, but the story is really about Jo and Fredrick and their family, including the boys and girls at the school that they treat as their own.  One of these boys is an out-of-control boy of the streets and the mother/son relationship that develops between him and Jo is really beautiful. 

Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott : Another continuation of the March/Bhaer/Lawrence/Brooke family.  Now Plumfield has become a small little college.  The children of Jo, Meg, and Amy are in their teens or young adulthood.  Jo is a little more preachy in this book, but still it is a wonderful story, with a redemption story-line that is truly beautiful!

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter : If you don't know this story, it's about a little girl who made up the glad game, looking for something to be glad about no matter what happens.  Disney's Pollyanna is one of my top five favorite movies of all time, but the book is pretty different and goes through more of her interactions with the townspeople and the hearts she helped change, and also spends a lot of time when Pollyanna's life is changed and the game becomes very difficult to play. 

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: This was a delight to read again.  Makes me want to visit the Swiss Alps.  This book just makes you feel good! It's the story of a little girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps and immediately falls in love with the wildflowers and the goats her grandfather keeps.  She ends up having to leave for a time and befriends a crippled sick girl named Klara.  It is a beautiful story about home, friendship and the healing power of nature.

Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery: This is another wonderful story by L.M. Montgomery.  The heroine is Patricia Gardner, a girl who loves her home and family more than anything and is terribly afraid of change. (remind you of anyone you know?) It is a great read as she grows up and faces inevitable changes in her life and adapts.  It's a lovely story!

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery: This is another book I have read at least a dozen times and I can't put it down each time.  I love this story so much! The heroine is Jane Stuart, a pre-teen girl who lives with her sweet but spineless mother and her overbearing grandmother.  She is constantly made to feel stupid by everyone except her mother, and has zero confidence.  She believed all her life that her father was dead, and then learns that her parents are in fact separated and her dad lives on Prince Edward Island.  Her life changes forever for the better when her dad writes and asks that Jane come stay with him for the summer. 

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott: Another sweet lesser-known book by Louisa May Alcott.  Rose is an orphan who is sent to live with her father's brother, Alec.  This is one of Alcott's book that really lets the father character shine as Uncle Alec is a wonderful presence in Rose's life and he helps her to become a happy, healthy young lady.  She also lives within walking distance of all of her father's sisters, who have all boys.  There are eight cousins overall, with Rose being the only girl.  This is a wonderful story and also has a sequel "Rose in Bloom"

Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle: This was a quick, fun, nostalgic little read.  Just a sweet little book about Raggedy Ann and the adventures she has with her little mamma Marcella and all of her doll friends.  My mom used to read these stories to me (and most of the others listed here) and I loved reading them again. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Out of all the books I read, I think this is the one I most enjoyed rereading again.  I need to read it every spring, it does me so much good.  If you don't know the story, it is about a spoiled, sickly little girl from India who comes to live with her uncle in England after her parents die.  After she finds out about a mysterious secret garden that no one has been in for 10 years, she is determined to find it.  As Spring happens and the world outside begins to bloom, Mary finds herself blooming as well.  I really needed to read this book this spring. It has done me so much good!

There were a few other children's picture books I loved when I was a girl that I read "Baby Dear" "Where did the Baby go?" "First Delights" and "My Favorite Things."

Image result for The secret garden

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Tale of the Hermiston Watermelon

I had actually wished for it…and that made the surprise all the more delightful. 

It was one of those perfect summer Saturdays, the ones that make you feel as if you were a kid again, with all the time in the world just to play and be.  I was headed over to my favorite fruit stand along Highway 89 to pick up my first box of Brigham City peaches of the year.  I was also meeting up with Julie, my friend from La Grande, who was stopping off to get some peaches herself after being at BYU education.  A road trip along Highway 89 to get Brigham City peaches was something to look forward to in its own right, but an outing to get peaches on a brilliant summer day, with one of my  favorite people, was Mary Poppins-level magic and as I drove through the lush green canyon, I couldn’t help from smiling.   Our time at the fruit stand was short, as I knew it would be as Julie had a long drive ahead of her.  But, the two of us can always make the best of whatever time we are blessed with together and as we chatted and sampled juicy ripe peaches, the ten minutes we spent together was just perfect.  I got back into the car with a large cardboard box full of golden peaches that smelled amazing.  As I drove along the highway towards the mouth of the canyon, I suddenly felt the spontaneous desire to go straight instead of turn, and explore Brigham City a bit before heading home. 

I came to Deseret Industries first and I love exploring new DI’s I’ve never been to before.  It was fun to look at the clothes and books.  Down the road, I saw the little farmer’s market under some shady trees by the library.  I decided to pull over and take a look, as I was on the hunt for a perfect watermelon.  One of my 101 goals had been to learn how to pick the perfect watermelon and successfully pick five.  I pulled into the library parking lot and saw a sign on their door with two words that brought even more magic into my day: “Book Sale.”  Oh, I have always loved a good library book sale.  I hurried inside and downstairs where treasures were laid out on foldout tables.  I loved having time to just browse through the stacks and pick up ones that looked interesting and read a few lines.  What added to the fun, is that a band was playing at the farmer’s market and they were playing some fabulous toe-tapping songs that made me smile even brighter.  I chose a stack of ten cent magazines and then went out and walked out around the market for a while.   No watermelons, but it was fun looking at all the stands and just listening to and feeling the music. 

I almost didn’t stop at the next place I saw.  I was ready to head on home, but I decided run into the little grocery store, just to see if they had something I was looking for.   On their entrance door, I saw a sign that advertised their watermelons at 5 pounds for a dollar.  With that fabulous price, I had to go back and look to see if they had any good ones.  I walked back to the produce section, looked in the large bins, and was absolutely astonished…they were Hermiston watermelons.  For you, (unfortunate) people who are wondering what in the world is a Hermiston watermelon…Hermiston is a town in Oregon, about an hour and a half from La Grande, and long story short, Oregonians feel the same way about Hermiston watermelons that Utahns feel about Brigham City peaches.  Perfectly ripe, crisp, sweet, and when they are cold…oh, I hadn’t had one in so long.  And if you don’t know me very well, you don’t know what it meant to me to have a little small delight from my Oregon home.  I had wished for this.  I had wished that one of my five perfect watermelons could be a Hermiston watermelon and it was coming true!  I took my time and picked out my perfect watermelon and carried my treasure out to the car.  I felt so rich.  I took it home and a few hours before dinner I put it in our little kiddie pool with ice water surrounding it.  We savored it over dinner, piece after piece, and everybody agreed it was the perfect watermelon. 

Some might thing that it was a fun lucky coincidence that I happened into that little grocery store on that perfect summer day, but something much more important happened to me than that little surprise.   Sometimes I have walked into Wal-Mart and seen all the people and wondered, “There are so many people here, people with hopes and dreams and fears and heartaches.  How is it really possible that God is mindful of all these people and cares about all of them, not to mention all the people in and out of Wal-Marts all over the world, not to mention all the people who have ever lived? How can God really be in the details of all those people’s lives?” I grew up in a family of seven kids and it was hard sometimes to get individualized attention with six other siblings.  Was it really possible that God was not just aware of me, but invested in my life, with so many others to care for and love?

The answer to my question came that day in the form of a perfect Hermiston watermelon.  It was no coincidence that I came into a little mom and pop grocery store in Brigham City Utah and for the first time in the 14 years I have lived in Utah, found a Hermiston watermelon.  It was my own special customized miracle, and along with it came a clear message I felt from God, “I see you.  I know what delights your heart and what breaks your heart. I know you better than anyone else and I love you more and better than anyone else.” Looking back on that experience, I can imagine God’s delighted face looking down at me with anticipation as I looked in the bins and saw those wonderful watermelons.

God is in the details of our lives.  I know that is true.  If you ever question whether God is mindful of you, may I suggest that you be on the lookout for the “Hermiston watermelons” in your own life.  I know they will come.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Tale of the Oregon Christmas Tree

The plan was so wonderfully illogical, and I absolutely loved it.   My brother Adam, his wife Savannah and I were all having a wonderful vacation in our La Grande home just a few days before Christmas, 2018. It was Adam’s first time being back in over a decade and Savannah’s first time being there.   Saturday was Adam’s birthday and when I asked him what he wanted to do, he said he wanted to give Savannah the true Oregon experience and for the three of us to get a permit and drive up into the mountains and cut down a Christmas tree, like we used to when he was little. 

The perfect start to the day was our aunt making Adam a special birthday breakfast. Our aunt Max is a force of nature.  She is like having a favorite aunt, best friend, and fairy godmother all at once. When we lived in La Grande, cousin sleepovers were a common occurrence. For a special breakfast treat, Max would often make aebleskivers, which we always called able-skaybbles.  I was delighted when I heard Max was making able-skaybbles for Adam’s birthday breakfast.  Our cousin Kara came over with her husband John and their beautiful baby girl who is all smiles.  We all gathered around the beautifully set table, with Max’s Spode Christmas dishes and red cloth napkins and bright red candles.  Her dining room is so cozy and happy.  Behind the table, is my grandma’s hutch with all of her pretty china.  There are traces of my mother everywhere, as there are little quilts and Christmas decorations she’s given Max over the years.  We ate and ate the golden pancake puffs dipped in melted butter and then in snowy powdered sugar.  After breakfast, Kara and Adam went downstairs to play Super Smash Brothers, like they did when they were kids. 

Later on, Adam, Savannah and I piled into Uncle Mark’s truck and after obtaining one of the two last Christmas tree permits at the local store, we headed off into the mountains we know so well. Our family definitely has a history among the forests and the majestic Grande Ronde River.  I wondered if Adam too was thinking about the fishing trips and picnics, the 6th grade school field trip to gather wild flowers, and our yearly family trek to find the perfect Christmas tree.   It was great fun to see Savannah be so delighted.  It was clear this place had charmed its way into her heart. We stopped at a few places, getting out to tramp around in the snow and take a look at the trees.  Thankfully it was warmer there than in the valley and I enjoyed the walk through the snow, pausing to pick up little pinecones.  We looked at several trees, but…there was no magic, so we kept on going.  The world around us was so beautiful and quiet.  If it was only for the drive, it was worth it. And then…we saw it.  There were large majestic pine trees standing sentinel, and then just past them was a beautiful clearing with dozens and dozens of perfect Christmas trees, scattered all over little rolling hills.   Magic was most definitely in the air.

As we walked in, even before we started looking at trees, all three of us began to talk of about it as “our place” and make plans of coming back each year for a tree. The only footprints around were a myriad of animal tracks (nothing too big J) and it really did feel like we ourselves had discovered this place and it was somehow ours.  Savannah was thrilled and kept taking pictures to capture the loveliness that surrounded us.  The cold was refreshing, not harsh, as we looked at the different trees and hiked through the snow.  There was one particular spot that Savannah fell in love with and after I took their picture, a little patch of light caught Savannah’s eye in the distance and she said “How about that one?” You want to talk about magic, I am not kidding when I tell you that there was a small ray of sunshine highlighting our tree.  We hiked over to it and it was absolutely perfect.  It was beautiful, with just the right amount of fluffy branches filled with soft green needles.  We all agreed this was the one.  Adam took out the saw and looking so much like Dad, he sawed down the tree, giving Savannah her turn to saw and complete her perfect Oregon experience.  We took our treasure back to the road and as we left the beautiful clearing, Adam put a pin in the maps on his phone so we can find our place again.  Reason about #41,000 why I adore my brother: he named it “Christmas Tree Wonderland.”

We put the tree in the back of the truck and piled back into the cab, Savannah declaring that was one of the coolest things she’d ever done.  We listened to Christmas songs on our way back, delighting in the gift of the experience we’d just had.  The next day Adam and Uncle Mark tied that tree on top of Adam and Savannah’s little red car and we took it all the way back to Utah with us.  We put it up in our parent’s basement, decorating it together on Christmas Eve with dollar store decorations.  Before Adam and Savannah left to go home to Arizona, he sawed some of the branches off, taking a piece of the trunk because reason #41,0001 why I adore my brother, he planned to carve a nutcracker out of it.  I took the branches and put some in mason jars filled with vinegar to make homemade pine cleaner.  The fun of our special tree continues. 

Yes, it may have been illogical for us to go into the Oregon mountains to chop down a Christmas tree and then drive all the way back to Utah with it, two days before Christmas.  But in a world where the message is so often to simplify, cut back, “let’s not and say we did,” etc., I worry that sometimes we forget that the special things have their place too.  Our special day will always be one of my favorite Christmas memories now.  It was the perfect way to celebrate my Christmas-loving brother and to bring a little magic to all of us.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Beth Blake and Adam Savannah Blake, people smiling, people standing, tree, hat, outdoor, nature and closeup

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Tale of the Four Word Message from Elder Holland I Desperately Needed.

December of  2017 was a difficult month, far more than I actually let on to anyone.  I was dealing with a new full-time work schedule and trying to write two Christmas programs.  Our family was going through some tough times.  After dealing with an additional disappointment that shook me up, I decided I needed to take a trip to my Oregon home for a few days.  The night before I left, I had one of scariest nights of my life and another terrible disappointment. The day I got back from my trip, my brother and his wife suffered a devastating loss and a big change I had been expecting but dreading happened, further shaking my world.

Christmas and all of its delights came and I felt happier and more at peace.  But as the Christmas magic ended, and the lights around me and inside me started to go out, my troubles started to haunt me again.  I had the chance to spend a Saturday evening by myself at the end of the month and I had plans to rest and replenish.  But again I was disappointed as I spent past midnight dealing with an ugly situation.  As I laid in bed that night, my mind spinning and my heart hurting.  I felt lost, confused, and so very tired of everything. The next morning was Sunday.  I had a choice.  I could go to church or I could stay home and spend a few precious hours to myself I felt I desperately needed. There was no one at my house who would care if I went to church or not.  “Surely God would understand this one time,” I thought to myself.  Surely He knew that I could use some time alone and would not mind if I skipped just this once. 

I went back and forth a lot the next morning and in the end, I don’t know really what it was that got me to church.  Yes, I do believe that God would have understood had I chosen to stay home, but more importantly, He was aware of me and what I needed and He knew that I needed much more than bath bubbles and a good book.  During Sacrament Meeting, I felt the Spirit but still felt distracted, like I was half-there.  After Sacrament Meeting, I walked down the hall to Sunday School, smiling at my friends as I passed by, but inside I was still hurting.  That year we were studying Doctrine and Covenants and as the last lesson of the year, the Gospel Doctrine teachers were assigned to teach on a talk Jeffrey R. Holland gave about Joseph Smith’s experience in Liberty Jail.  I listened as the teacher talked about Joseph’s trials that refined him and the beautiful revelations that came from that terrible time.  While my trials were nothing compared to Joseph’s, I felt a connection with and a gratitude for Joseph in a way I hadn’t before.  At the end of the lesson, the teacher played a recording of Elder Holland’s concluding testimony.  It was a typical Elder Holland testimony, full of beautiful encouraging and inspiring words, spoken with his classic fervor.  I listened intently and then I heard these words:

“In the words of the Liberty Jail prison-temple, my young friends: Hold on thy way.  Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

Suddenly it felt like the other people in the room had disappeared.   I felt as though Elder Holland was there, kneeling down in front of me and looking me directly in the eyes delivering to me the exact message  I needed. “Hold on thy way.” Four words that struck with such power and love, that I find myself tearing up writing about it now.  I knew that Heavenly Father was aware of my circumstances and He wanted me to continue on, just as I am, relying on the Savior to help strengthen me and guide me. 

As a youth and a leader, I have said the words to the Young Women theme many, many times.  But after that experience, I saw things differently when I thought about the value of integrity.  I have always thought about integrity in the sense of being honest, and true to what you know to be right.  But I think integrity is also being true to who you are, just as you are with all of the wonderful gifts you have to bless others, and all the weaknesses you have, ready to be turned into strengths through the Atonement.  As one of my favorite quotes says, “The world is collapsing, but that doesn’t mean our own world has to collapse to make up for it.  When everything seems to be lacking in integrity, do you know what you do? You find it in yourself.  You change the world, right from where you are standing.”

In the past year since that experience, those four words have rung out from my heart many times.  They have become my personal motto, a “Title of Liberty” to remind me of my purpose when my world does feel like it is collapsing.  As my friend Rachel Macy Stafford would say, “My friends, whether we are facing life’s small mysteries or gigantic ones, whether we are facing mysteries for ourselves, our loved ones, our the world in it’s troubling state, I am certain this is how we must deal.  We must…

Carry on
Bake on
Sing on
Decorate on
Strum on
Praise on
Pray on
Dance on
Love on
Believe on
Twinkle on
Inhale on
Exhale on…

Because when we do, our people are thankful we joined in.
Because we do, we see, smell and taste beautiful things we may have missed.
Because when we do, angst diminishes and hope swells.”

I know that as we turn to God, we can be blessed with the strength, fortitude and joy to "hold on our way" rejoicing that "Heaven is cheering us on today, tomorrow and forever!" 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Studying my family history was delightful!

As part of my 101 things in 1001, I wanted to read at least 10 family history stories.  This was a last minute addition, due to a fabulous speaker we had at girl's camp this year.  I absolutely loved this experience.  Here are some things I wanted to share. 

My great-great-great grandmother, Ann Ham Hickenlooper, left England and a fiance after hearing the missionaries speak and gaining a testimony.  It broke her heart to leave her fiance but he told her he could never support her new found faith.  She was part of the first handcart company to come to Utah.  She writes in her journal of the joys and sorrows that company had.  President Brigham Young and others came to help them and they brought a present of watermelons which were wonderful.  Ann tasted the watermelon and it brought back her voice.  She had suffered with a sore throat and could barely speak for three weeks.  When she told the prophet this, he became emotional and could only whisper "God bless you sister." Because of this story, I have decided to start the tradition of having a watermelon every year on the 24th of July. 

She married William Haney Hickenlooper. She was a nurse and she and her husband would be called to the bedside of the sick all the time.  She would take care of them as a nurse and he would administer Priesthood blessings.  Her husband was said to have the gift of healing.  They were a terrific team. 

My great-great-great aunt was Olympia Brown, a staunch supporter of women's suffrage. She went to college and was told in her speech classes that women weren't required to memorize their speeches like the men.  She memorized every single speech.  She became the first women ordained minister.  Because she was such a fabulous speaker, Susan B. Anthony continually sought her help with the suffragist movement.  She delivered 300 speeches in one summer. 

Another great-great-great grandmother was Mary Ann Burnhope Wallace.  She gave birth to 11 children and only raised two to adulthood.  She had three sets of twins and all died except one. Her husband was in a polygamist marriage and when his second wife came down with small pox, Mary Ann nursed her night and day until she died.  That wife left behind one little boy and when she saw her husband worrying about what would become of his son she said, "No one but me can have him, for he is yours," and she raised him and loved him as her one.  She studied obstetrics and practiced as a midwife for many years. 

My great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Carlton Wallace Hickenlooper loved theater and loved to dance and sing.  She met her husband because she had been cast as the lead in a play and Orson Hickenlooper and another boy volunteered to go pick her up and drive her to the hall each night for rehearsals.  After Orson's turn the first night, he told the other boy that his services would no longer be required.  She lost every single one of her sisters due to tragic illnesses.  When she herself was sick with small pox, her father prayed to know what to do and was given the answer to make her cinnamon tea, which helped with her symptoms. 

There was another woman who came up in these stories who inspired me and made me very curious, she was the sister of Mary Ann and aunt of Elizabeth.  Her name was Betsy and both women talk of her coming to take care of them during difficult times.  I don't know much else about her, other than she had a rather large family of her own to take care of.  But both Mary Ann and Elizabeth talk of her coming for long periods of time and the sweet and tender care she gave.  I want to learn to minister like Aunt Betsy. 

I also got a chance to read a journal that my grandma kept.  That was precious.  I loved reading things about her I didn't know.  We weren't particularly close, but I felt so much closer to her after that.  She wrote about a time when I came to visit and we went to the beach.  She loved the Oregon Coast more than anything.  She really was a writer and expressed herself so beautifully through those journals.  She even chose a pen name,  based partly on the love she had for copper dishes.  Hmm...loved Oregon, writing, and dishes.  Sound like anyone you know? 😉 I had to chuckle about how many times she used the word "delightful" to describe something in her day.  I use that word all the time! No, she wasn't the ideal grandma, but she was mine and I love her for it. 

This was a wonderful experience.  I treasure these stories and hope to learn many more.  I highly recommend getting to know your ancestors through their stories.  I loved it!

Betsy Carlton Burnhope Laura Mattinson Borup with Klea, Carl Leta  The older woman is Betsy Carlton Burnhope Mattison.  I am excited to meet her some day!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

40, "The Year of Adventure"

Hey friends!

I was a little afraid of this birthday, feeling the typical "over the hill" feeling, particularly because I don't have a husband and kids yet.  However,  I've decided that this year is going to be absolutely fabulous.  This year, is going to be my year of adventure.  It started out with a fabulous Bear Lake adventure today with one of my favorite friends.  I loved it! I have a few other trips/experiences in the works.  One of them is a trip to Scottsdale AZ to meet one of my favorite authors. I am SO excited! It is going to be a fabulous year!

My gospel goal is continuing over from last year.  I am attempting to read all of the General Conference talks that are on  It has been such a wonderful project and I have learned so much.  I have one more conference in 1979 and then I am done with the 70s.  I'm excited to start on the 80s!

And last but not least, here is my cooking list for the year!

1) Zephyr pancakes
2) Lorann oil snow cone syrup
3) Philadelphia strawberries and cream ice cream
4) Vanilla butter mints
5) 15 minutes homemade root beer
6) Homemade corn chips
7) Loaded baked potato soup
8) Homemade rainbow sherbet
9) Homemade German roasted pecans
10) Blackberry cobbler baked oatmeal
11) Five spice ginger molasses cookies
12) Thick and rich best ever french toast
13) Best ever snickerdoodle cookies
14) The best applesauce
15) Frozen Brazilian lemonade
16) Berries and cream dessert
17) Candy cane muddy buddies
18) Strawberry frosty
19) Straticella sweet cream ice cream
20) The most amazing cornbread
21) Summer berry delight jam
22) Cinnamon steel-cut oats with brown sugar streusel and fresh peaches
23) Boxcar Children stew
24) Orange hot chocolate
25) Four star cornmeal butterflake biscuits
26) Rich egg turbans
27) Sweet cream southern peach frappe
28) Scottish lemon sugar shortbread
29) Best baked mac and cheese
30) Orange spice cake
31) Amish strawberry shortcake
32) Always soft and creamy honey better
33) New York raspberry ice cream soda.
34) Disney puffed French toast
35) Lime coconut honey
36) Homemade mashed potatoes
37) Lisa Yockelson cinnamon toast
38)  All butter peanut butter cookies
39) Candy cane soft serve
40) Pie crust biscotti

I'm excited! It's going to be awesome!