Monday, June 21, 2010


Photographer Max Alexander is credited with this photo of Stonehenge taken at Summer Solstice.

I was awake this morning at 5:38 a.m. to welcome the first day of summer.
5:38 a.m. was the exact moment of Summer Solstice-- meaning that the earth's northern axis is tilted as far toward the sun as it gets. In other words, the sun is at its northern-most point in the sky for the year. We are as far away from winter as we can get.
At 5:38 a.m. a robin was near my open window to herald this momentous occasion with his cheerful song. He had been anticipating this moment for several days. On Sunday morning he began his rehearsals at 4:30 a.m. There were other robins in the neighborhood who were doing the same thing, but their calls sounded like far-away echos of my yard's soloist.
I remember other summer mornings when the pre-dawn warblings were a veritable symphony--hundreds of birds shouting joy to the approaching sun. Minnesota and Indiana summer mornings were incredible that way.

Celebrate Summer Solstice! Thank Heavenly Father for birdsong.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adventure versus Pleasing Others

By now, everyone has heard the story of sixteen year old Abby Sunderland whose attempt to sail solo around the world came to an abrupt ending a few days ago after the mast on her sailboat broke off during a storm in the Indian Ocean.

So, now there is a debate raging about whether Abby’s parents are guilty of child endangerment for allowing her to attempt such a dangerous feat. Some critics of the Sunderlands feel that the parents should be prosecuted and, at the very least, be forced to pay restituition for the costs involved in their daughter’s rescue at sea. The Sunderlands maintain that Abby is a trained, experienced, and able sailor—comparable to other expert sailors, regardless of age.

Should 16-year-olds be banned from sailing around the world simply because of their age?

If my parents had set me adrift on the ocean in a sailboat at the age of sixteen, it probably would have been a prosecutable crime because I had no training, no experience, couldn’t swim, and was afraid of water! And that was only part of it: I was also afraid of my own shadow!

Obviously there are great differences among 16-year-olds, and they shouldn’t be stereotyped and judged simply because of their ages.

I applaud Abby for her courage and determination. I applaud her parents for doing all they could to make sure she was as prepared as she could be, and for having the courage to let her go. If Abby’s parents had been easily swayed by others’ negative opinions, their wishy-washy example would have made Abby less courageous, more fearful.

Our lives should not be wasted in trying to please everyone, or in being fearful of criticism. No matter what you do, someone will try to find something to criticize.

One of my life-long favorite Aesop’s Fables is:

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:
Please all, and you will please none!


Saturday, June 12, 2010


The Knight and I were present when a Provo Temple Presidency member recently shared some of Elder Richard G. Scott’s teachings about the marriage sealing. He said that in the next life the Lord will ask couples married in the Temple if they still want to spend the rest of Eternity together. Their answers will be honored.

A day or so later, the Knight and I had a conversation about that. The Knight said, “I hope you will say, ‘Yes.’” I said, “I hope you will say, ‘Yes,’ too.”

My thought was: we have been married for forty-three years; we share a lot of history together, not to mention children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine turning my back on all that, and choosing to throw it away. Just the thought of not being together as a family or having missing family members is just too sad for words. Would I seriously consider spending eternity with a stranger or alone? What a horrible thought.

Of course, we have had to weather some rough times during those 43 years—as happens in every marriage. And undoubtedly there will yet be some bumpy roads ahead.

Some time ago, I reworded a poem by Robert Frost. To me it is about choosing to be together for eternity:

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But [we] have speed far greater. [We] can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And [we] were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that [we] may go where [we] will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That [we] may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing [we] say.
Two such as [we] with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once [we] are agreed
That our lives for now and forevermore
Are together wing to wing, and oar to oar.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


In today’s newspaper was an article that caught my attention. The title was: “Plugged-in parents may be alienating their own kids.” The article was from the New York Times; it began with the following incident:

“While waiting for an elevator at the … Mall near her home in Virginia recently, Janice Im, who works in early-childhood development, witnessed a troubling incident between a young boy and his mother.

“The boy, who… was about 2 ½ years old, made repeated attempts to talk to his mother, but she wouldn’t look up from her BlackBerry.

“He’s like, ‘Mama? Mama? Mama?’ And then he starts tapping her leg. And she goes, ‘Just wait a second. Just wait a second.’

“Finally, he was so frustrated, that “he goes, ‘Ahhhh!’ and tries to bite her leg.”

The article goes on to say that MIT has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. They found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread.

Near the end of the article the author took another tack: Parents who pay attention to their children, talking and explaining things to them, and responding to their questions “remain the bedrock of early childhood learning.” Parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.

The question posed at the end of the article was whether the parents’ use of smartphones, (and other technologies that employ screens) etc. will be a detriment to their children’s intellectual development.

My reaction was: While the child’s intellectual development is a legitimate concern, I think the child’s “feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition” should be the deeper concern. The little boy becoming frustrated and trying to bite his mother, demonstrates that when this parent ignores her child’s repeated entreaties, the impact on the child is a profound psychological and emotional one. That is scarier than anything. And heart-breaking.

Another thought: the parent who is addicted to the various technologies may need “intervention” to get them back in touch with real life… and their most valuable possession—their child.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nudnik Alert!!!

Weird words are fun. When we lived in Indiana, one radio guy used to have a “weird word of the day.” Bill O’Reilly of the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News has a word of the day. And, kids love inventing words: “krickle”!

When we lived in Simi Valley, I took a Voice and Diction Speech Class at Moorpark College. One of my fellow students, who always sat next to me in class, was a Jewish woman who was probably in her late twenties or early thirties.

One day, while chatting with me, she used the word “schlepping” in a sentence. “What’s ‘schlepping’?” I asked.

She was taken aback. “You don’t know what ‘schlepping’ is? Everybody uses that word! It’s Yiddish….”

I knew I’d undoubtedly heard the word once or twice, but as far as I was concerned, it was slang. And since I studiously avoided using slang, I’d felt no need to know what ‘schlepping’ meant. I had a vague notion that its meaning might be similar to ‘wasting one’s time wandering the shopping malls with other time-wasters’ – like packs of teenagers do during the summertime; and the teenagers themselves (in my lexicon) were “schleps.”

I remembered this conversation this morning while I was browsing through the most recent Reader’s Digest and stopped to look at the “Word Power” list. All seventeen words were Yiddish. Number 13 was ‘Schlep’—(meaning haul): “Lois schlepped the newspapers to the recycling center….”

I was curious to see if I was familiar with any of the other 16 Yiddish words. Amazingly I was! I knew “yenta” (busybody) and “mazel tov” (best wishes)—from Fiddler on the Roof, “oy vey” (oh woe), “kibitz” (offering opinions) and “bubkes” (nothing)—think Bupkis, as in the dice game. I’ve also seen “chutzpah” frequently—I thought it was equivalent to being “cheeky” (it actually means gall), but it is pronounced hoot-spuh not chuts-paw.

Hmmm. I probably won’t be slipping any of the above into my conversations anytime soon. The rest of the selections included:

-kvetch (complain)

-zaftig (pleasantly plump)

-plotz (collapse)

-meshuga (daffy)

-nebbish (milquetoast)

-tchotchke (knickknack)

-schnorrer (moocher)

-mensch (honorable person)

-shamus (detective)

-nudnik (a bore) pronounced “nood-nick”

Of the 17, I think I liked ‘nudnik’ the best, and might actually use it some time. It sounds like a word that Chris might have invented!