Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas Shovel

In which our Heroine makes a Mistake, and then gets Another Chance.

This year for Christmas Jon and I decided we would like to do the “Twelve Days of Christmas” thing for a family in our church ward.  Long story short: we had trouble finding the address and then wondered if maybe they were leaving town anyway (because this couple’s children are in another state right now—and although I don’t know the situation, I thought they might be able to go see them).  Laziness took over from there.  On Christmas Eve, I wondered if they’d had enough money to buy each other gifts.  I considered dropping off some cash or something—just a card even.  But I forgot.  When I saw one of the people in the family on Sunday at church, I could have kicked myself hard.  I had failed to follow through on a prompting to help someone.  So much for surviving cancer because I had a purpose in life.  Gharrrgh!  I made a resolution to do better next time.

Fortunately, God is merciful.

Not twenty minutes ago, a family of four came to my door and asked to shovel my driveway.  They said they would take any donation at all, even small, as they were losing their house soon.  Here’s the thing.  I never let any of the neighbor kids shovel our driveway.  They ask for a whopping 20 bucks and I’ve learned that they do a substandard job most of the time.  It’s not like Jon and I are rolling in the dough.  But tonight, as stood at my chilly front door (13 degrees Fahrenheit), I looked behind the father I saw a little girl bundled up in a pink snow suit with a shovel, and this time I couldn’t say no. 

I wandered into the kitchen to the sound of shovels banging and snow being crunched outside my house.  What would I pay them?  I took down our supply of “just in case” cash.  I kept it in a poinsettia-decorated card/money folder from a 2009 Christmas present from my brother Mike.  I spread the money out on the counter-top.  My initial plan was to go with a 20, but then I thought, “I’ll pray about it.”  Along with the prayer, I had the duel thought of: “I need this money.  What if they use it unwisely? Or what if they’re not even telling me the truth?” 

I did not get a sure answer from my prayer.  But I did have the thought that generosity never goes awry for the giver, regardless of what these unknowns would use the money for.  I remembered that last year, someone very anonymous generously gave my family some cash, and I felt so loved.  Surely, I could do the same? 

I pulled the twenty in front of me—no, not enough.  I made it thirty.  (Sigh)  Fifty. Fifty-eight.  Yikes.  In one quick motion I grabbed the hundred (with Ben Franklin smirking at me on the front) and threw another fifty into my brother’s old Christmas envelope.  It still had his handwriting on it: “This packs better for the plane! LOL”

“It’s okay,” I told myself, “You still have a few minutes to decide whether to really do this.” Hah.  The doorbell rang almost as soon as I had the thought.  So I went with it.  I gave the guy the envelope and he left.  But I didn’t.  I closed the door and crouched on the bench by the skinny front window.  When the huge snow bank got between my view and their car, I stood on the bench.  Then I had to leap off really fast because all at once the whole family came running out of their sedan and back to my front door. 

They were all smiles when I nonchalantly answered a while later.  They told me I really made a difference.  Wow, I felt so good as I learned their names (Tyler, Lila, etc, and etc), and let them know that I wished them well.  

Ooooh (shiver-happy).  Warm and fuzzy.  I still feel so warm and fuzzy!  Somebody wipe this idiot grin off my face.  I’m telling you, these people gave me the Christmas gift of all time.  Now wish me luck explaining what I’ve done to my husband when he gets home from Scouts.    

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Winter Garden

In which our Heroine turns Greenwitch.

Here are a few photos of the indoor garden I’ve been working on, along with a little history in story-book format.  Once upon a time, I had this crazy idea that I could grow some fresh greens and herbs during the fall and winter in Alaska.  “What brilliance!” I thought to myself. “I’m sure I’ll save scads of money on lettuce (which tends to look wilted and slimy in most stores at winter), plus I’ll have a fun hobby, all season long!” I also thought of the perk of being able to start seeds in the early spring to get a jump on those short Alaskan summers.  I thought of the awesomeness of starting something brand new and of doing yet another crazy experiment—an occupation much loved by moi, except for all those times when such experiment fails. 

To continue to tale:  Once upon a time, a beautiful maiden began growing lettuce, parsley, and other such wonders inside her snug cottage.  This mythical maiden was known far and wide for her green thumb.  But she soon found that light was needed as fall faded into winter, and the girl was poor.  Turning to her magic mirror, she cried, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, can you give me sunlight at all?”  Much to her surprise, the beautiful girl was taken up in a cloud of fairy dust and magically whisked into her local Home Depot, where stood a vast assortment of fluorescent lighting as well as some inexpensive shop lights, which she duly set up on wire shelving in a sunny spare bedroom.  But would these cheap lights work?  Only time would tell…

The second day, early in the morning, the maiden arose to check on her seeds and the wondrous new lights.  A miracle had happened!  The dry, hard seeds had been replaced by small seedlings.  How magical.  But in the afternoon, an evil sorcerer sent a plague of locusts (whiteflies and aphids) and the seedlings withered and died.  The maiden would have liked to feel morose and to have a tantrum, but she was too innocent and sweet for such nonsense.  Instead, the lovely girl scattered new seeds and went to bed. 

In the morning, she looked into her little kingdom of flora, and—once again, she found that elves had come in the night and replaced the seeds with tiny plants!  This time, the maiden found a secret potion to keep the evil sorcerer and his demonic minions at bay.  The plants grew and grew until they were large enough to serve in many a magical dish.  And the maiden, her prince Charming, and small fry lived happily ever after. 

Translation of magical objects in the fairy tale and other things of note:

1. The Potion: Brammer’s Peppermint Soap will keep just about any pest away, whether indoor or out in the garden.  I have since learned that my grandmother poured the dregs of her dishwater over her garden plants every morning way back in the day.

2. Magical lights: plain old fluorescent bulbs stuck in 4 ft long shop lights.  It is probable that the really expensive “grow” lights work better, but these work too, as long as the top of the plants stay within 2-4 inches of the bulb.  I use a simple, and pretty ugly system of boxes to put the shorter plants up higher when needed. 

3.Elvin-grown seedlings: I have experimented with romaine, butterhead, Greenleaf, and redleaf lettuces.  The redleaf is best so far.  All herbs seem to work.  Both lettuce and herb get leggy.  My banana sweet pepper is a surprise success, and my bok choi is a steady hit.  Spinach is a fail—I don’t know why—but three tries and its out.  Someday, I will get seeds for carrot, radish, summer squash, etc and will try those out.  I’m really only in the beginning stages of an all-consuming project here.  We’ll see what happens next.

4. “Poor” maiden: Not as cost effective as I would have liked, and the vegetables grow slowly—but it is one of my favorite random experiments to date.  And there’s nothing like having fresh parsley and basil whenever I want it.  I also look forward to having an early start on spring in a few months.  I am hoping that seeding everything myself will save a lot of money!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Say Nothing

In which our Heroine begins again.

When I quit writing my blog in June, I determined that I would only let it lie for the duration of summer because I was so busy learning how to garden (among other things).  When fall came, I found that my “summer projects” could be taken indoors.  I continued the autumnal bliss of harvesting, and even seed-planting, near sunny windows for several months.  When my enormous tomato plants somehow got outdoor bugs while inside the house, I threw them out.  I thought to myself: “is it time to blog again?” But then I bought some shop-lights and began lettuce and herbs beneath them.  At this juncture, I told myself that I would surely begin writing again soon.  Goals notwithstanding, the blog dwindled into near-nothingness.  Christmas began to creep closer, and—literally—that’s all she wrote.  At least for a good long while.

But today, I finally logged in and checked my stats.  To my surprise, people are still reading—not too often or regularly—but still.  I got a handful of nice comments on past posts, and even a request for further contact from a person in like situation.  I notice too that my most popular post is the one on the anti-convulsant that I take called Keppra.  I hope to write more on this at a later date.  Besides my continued readership, I do want to continue writing because there are times when I am fairly bursting with literary energy.  I have a lot to say.

 In addition to the nice comments of which I spoke earlier, I am also the privileged recipient of a few very nasty ones, which were obviously meant to hurt me personally.  For a few moments after reading these, I felt my heart as a bloody cut of red meat served on a spiked platter.  I had written what I thought were—and still believe to be—truthful memories.  I am sorry that some disagree.  I did not mean to hurt anyone.  These “anonymous” comments are now deleted.  I respectfully ask that those commentators keep their cutting remarks to themselves in the future.  Please do not soil my efforts at creative therapy.  In return, I will make an effort at increased discretion.  I have removed these two apparently controversial posts.  For those of you who liked the posts and wanted to see more, I apologize and thank you for your support.  To all of you, both friend and foe: I don't consider this a defeat.  I merely do not want these meanies and all their small-hearted friends coming to my blog for any reason.  Moral of the story: Sometimes its best to say nothing at all. 

Saying “nothing at all” is really hard for me.  But in the unenviable choice between dishonesty and silence, I choose to shut-my-mouth/delete-some-of-my-blog.  I guess I’ll have to replace it with some other stuff.  May the scar tissue on my  heart be infinately smaller than that located on my head.  Sticks and stones, baby.  Sticks. And. Stones.  So, with a bit of an emotional hiccup, my saga continues…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm Still Here, World

In which Stuff Happens, and i don’t write much about it.

              Just reporting in to let you know I’m still alive.  With the warmth and green of summer beckoning me outdoors so constantly, I find that I have little inclination to sit down and write.  I am busy cooking, cleaning, and mothering.  I have begun many new adventures in the art of bread/pasta/yoghurt/rice milk making.  Successes all.  Additionally, I have finally mastered—no, conquered—the art of the seed sprout, after many failed attempts.  It turns out that my wheat berries were bad, or unsproutable anyway.  If any of you out there are interested in such random acts of healthiness, I highly suggest you look into this.  They don’t take a lot of effort once you get the hang of it.  And they are so tasty and healthy—way better than a multi-vitamin.  If I remember, I’ll come back to this topic in later days.
              In my gardening adventures I find myself wondering more and more why I felt the need to try this tomato thing so much—they aren’t happy being almost rained to death here in good old Anchorage.  Part of the problem may be that as I ruminate on the immanent failure of my tomatoes, I end up looking right over their unhappy shaggy shoulders and my glance falls directly on the most beautiful spinach, bok choy, kale, and broccoli leaves.  They are lush, full, healthy, and thriving.  Thank goodness.  It does make me feel better about the whole nearly-dead tomato thing.
              And, my child is suddenly a playground prodigy.  Today she managed a ladder, went down a tall curly slide, and climbed up the side of a jungle gym, all while wearing the girly dress she insisted on today.  When I caught her (gently) dumping rocks onto the head of the little boy who taught her all of these impressive moves, I was almost proud.  She’s actually acting like a normal 2 year old at the playground!  Maybe—just maybe—her days of whiny, tantrum, hold onto Mom’s legs days are over!  Not that I want her to throw rocks at other kids, exactly.
              Also, here are some more impressive photos of the wildlife at Denali:

Tolkat bears: the only place where they come as  true blondes.  Notice that spring had only just arrived by the end of May.

 I know.  Bad joke.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to NOT Potty-train Your Child

In which our Heroine’s Child defecates in her Bathwater. 

              Over the past month I have gotten into the lamentable habit of letting my child sit in the bathtub every morning for 30-40 minutes.  During these coveted few moments I turn into a whirlwind of motion.  I start laundry, do the dishes, make bread, sweep, vacuum, or any number of activities that are easier without Eva’s help.  This works for me because Eva greatly dislikes getting her head wet, so I can trust that drowning won’t come easily.  Besides, I stay nearby.  During my convalescence last fall, my mother taught me the free-babysitting bathtub trick, to which I have directed many a grateful thought. 
              Or, maybe not so “free.”  Moral: there is always a price to pay. 
              I was happily folding laundry when my child began screaming “Poopy, poopy, poopy,” at the top of her lungs.  Sudden visions of the worst burst into my mind as I sprinted up the steep half-flight of stairs.  Sure enough, it was everywhere.  Well, everywhere in the water anyway.  First thought: “That’s a lot of poop.  Does she do this normally?  How does it all fit in her diaper?”  Second thought: “I hate cleaning the tub.”  And then, surely one of the most ironic dilemmas in the history of mankind: Where do I put my unsanitary child while I sanitize the unsanitary bathtub that should be used to (you guessed it) sanitize said child.  Later I would wonder which toys were actually in the tub at the time of defecation, and which she tried to save and put away in the basket herself (because she is the kind of child who would). 
              Eva was fascinated by actually seeing her poop in action for once.  She was also (thankfully) repulsed by it and understood that playing with it was NOT desirable.  Perhaps she noticed the putrid smell emanating from the warm waters.  I certainly did.  My sense of smell is particularly acute due to the whole tumor-in-head thing.  Eva’s been interested in toilets for a long time.  The signs are there—I need to get going on this potty-training excercise.  There’s a problem, though.  I have no idea how to actually do it.  Also, I have a lot of diapers still (darn Costco box!)  Oh—and the under-developed, adolescent part of myself has manifested, and I don’t want to.  Of course, another part of me is reminded that I’ll be cleaning up a lot more excrement in the end if I don’t suffer the inevitable. 
              Hats off to my sister-in-law Michelle, who once tried to bathe her three children all at the same time in my puny college apartment’s bathtub.  My terrible memory may be embellishing a few details, but here’s what I remember.  Eli’s tattle-tale voice: “Mom! McKinley just pooped in the bathtub!” and Logan’s accompanying “Eww!”  And from small McKinley, a giggle.  Poor Michelle.  She has recently written on Facebook that she is finally done with diapers, after a combined total of ten and a half years.  Again, the moral: There is always a price to pay.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Birthday Girl

In which our Heroine turns Thirty. 

              I will confess that most of the time, the wishes I make as I blow out the candles are quickly made up, ill-thought out, and fairly useless.  They are split-second decisions that will probably have no bearing on my life, so I just go through the motions.  This year, as I focused on the single candle aglow atop my sprinkled cupcake, I decided to make a real wish.  I wanted it to be one that mattered and that would have some kind of magical power in changing my life for the better.  Perhaps it was the 15 primary-aged children who surrounded me at our ward’s park day that brought on my sudden belief in the enduring magical powers of a cheap candle, perhaps it was the bright sun, or maybe it was the kindness of my friends in providing me with a sugary reason to celebrate.  Whatever the case, I threw my birthday wish out into the wind, “Let this year be full of good health and happy moments.”  Well, more or less, since I was thinking less in words and more in emotions: a big bubble of happiness rising around me and my cupcake.
Dear Self,
Good job on making it through a rough year.  It was tough at times, but you're a trooper. 
P.S. I think you’re swell.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food and a View

In which our Lady finally continues her Account of Denali. 

              Ah, Denali.  I find myself thinking of you here in Anchorage on this cold cloudy day…
              Jon’s dad, Clyde, was good enough to do the driving and provide the camping gear.  Camping is pretty cheap if you can mooch off of someone with bigger, better stuff than you’ve ever before seen.  I had a real eyeful on this trip.  And by the way, my side of the family’s idea of camping involves bringing an inadequate sleeping bag, a small tent, and a fishing pole.  Feeling cold in the middle of the night?  Tough.  Need food?  Go catch it!  Bait’s bad?  Guess you’ll have to starve.  Okay, I’m exaggerating a little—although the near starvation thing did happen that one time in what I can only assume was someone’s badly timed bait joke.  But Clyde has the works: cots, cooking utensils of all sizes and shapes, a travel size bag of spices, a little gas heater for your tent, etc…  Before Alaska I didn’t even know that people had special hiking shoes just to keep out water, and that they sold special pants just for camping—although I had figured out by that point that camping in jeans could be a miserably wet experience.  I am a creature of comfort, after all. 
              So anyway, I am starting to get into this over-the-top camping thing.  I packed like a refugee, especially when it came to food.  I bought some thinly sliced steaks and marinated them in a sauce made from ranch dressing, 2 tomatillos, and a bunch of cilantro, all blended up together before we left home.  I also sautéed some onions and green peppers to lay on top of said exquisite steak.  Here are a couple of photos:

              But the grand finale was my banana s’more:

              Getting back to Clyde: he’s also handy as a tour guide as he’s one of those few people who have actually climbed Mt. McKinley.  It’s interesting to see that white part of the mountain as “glacier that we had to climb up, roped to each other…”  Although, in my opinion, a few more “I almost died right there on that ridge!” sentences might really spice up the story of the great McKinley boy scout trip—legendary in our Stake here in Anchorage.  Apparently, though, Clyde didn’t know you could see the side of McKinley from where we were in Denali park, because it’s usually so cloudy on the peak.  Here’s McKinley with at least a few of the usual clouds from the usual viewing area:

And one from the back:

              For being a point and shoot camera, my zoom is awesome.  Too bad I don’t really know how to use the thing to get the lighting right…

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Facing the Demon (and by this I do not mean my child)

In which our Lady makes an Heroic Crossing. 

              Last week, we took a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve.  It was a really fun trip.  We stayed at Teklanika campgrounds, which are located 30 miles inside the park.  This meant that we had the opportunity to actually drive our own car into Denali, which is a big deal because there are only 4 days out of the whole year when people are allowed to drive through the whole thing—and you have to draw out in a lottery to do it.  I will admit that I was apprehensive about the trip because I was already tired before we left.  Apparently, Eva was tired too, because she was quite the little demon on the trip—running toward trouble every time, ignoring her parent’s pleas and ploys alike, and generally just being plain rebellious.  It made things a little rough, and I’m sure that her grandfather, Clyde (Jon’s dad), was thoroughly sick of her high pitched screams by the end.  No, it was not the easiest camping trip ever, but it was worth it. 
              It was beautiful.  In Anchorage, the weather is very “pacific north-west,” meaning that it stays cool, is very green, and is often cloudy.  But sunny weather awaited us just 4 hours to the north.  In fact, it was so hot that my now-Alaskan senses couldn’t handle it.  The sun actually seemed to beat down on my poor head (western novella style), and I had to beg the use of Jon’s hat to cover my sun-sensitive ears.  Oh, I was hot.  It was like nothing I’ve experienced since moving to Alaska.  I alternated between wanting to bask in the sun and necessarily hiding in the sparse shade. 
              On our last evening there, we went on a short hike along the river near our camp site.  As the day would warm, the rivers rose and spread into new streams as more snow melted down.  Thus, our dry little nature walk turned into something a little more wet than we originally planned.  My father-in-law has a wandering spirit, and he immediately set out crossing random streams.  I followed, and then found myself brought up short by nothing more than a 2 foot wide span of shallow water.  As I looked down at the center rock I was supposed to step on to cross, my mind flipped back to that fateful day last August, and I felt a strange sense of vertigo.  Paranoid?  Who, me?  But Jon was there with me (with Eva on his back this time), and he held my hand as I crossed.  I made it with no seizures.  Obviously.  Anyway, six streamlets later, I was doing fine, though the biggest of them gave me some serious flashbacks.  The whole experience was very similar to the day I had my seizure and fell last fall, but in a sort of alternate reality kind of way.  Fortunately, all I can remember of my previous seizure/stream experience is the before moments of stepping onto that fateful boulder.  It’s mostly a psychological demon—a simple sense of dread.  It’s easy to get over the aftermath when you don’t remember any of it.  Who says losing your memory can’t be a good thing?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


In which our Heroine talks in Church.
 I know it seems like I’ve slacked off on my blogging/writing, but I have actually been writing quite a bit.  Two weeks ago I was asked to prepare a church talk.  And so, just to prove that I’m still working hard, I am going to put said church talk up on my blog as seen below:  If you are not the kind of person that doesn’t want to read an extra sermon or two in your spare time—and I don’t blame you—then skip it and come back another day for other blogging delights. 
Personal Revelation
Talk for Huffman Ward, May 22, 2011
Using as sources:
Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets; Elder Robert D. Hales
The Spirit of Revelation; David A. Bednar
Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise; President Boyd K. Packer
D&C 121
Pamphlet from Liberty Jail
                 I’ve been asked to speak on Personal Revelation.  Upon being asked, my first thought was, “Yes, I’d love to share my testimony about this subject!”  I don’t have a fear of public speaking, and the topic is pretty easy—as far as subject matter goes.  However, after reading the first couple of conference talks on personal revelation, it soon became clear to me that this would be valuable learning experience for me.  As I read about the ways to recognize the Spirit, I was humbled to realize how many times I have ignored such promptings.  Specific times were brought to my remembrance when I could have, and should have done better.  On the other hand, I also learned of times when my Heavenly Father has given me unfailing support through personal revelation.  I am truly grateful for the inspired priesthood leaders in our Ward who somehow knew that I needed to study this topic. 
Defining Revelation:
I have a strong testimony of what an amazing gift personal revelation is for each of us.  I am convinced that our Father in Heaven loves us and because of this, he would not cut us off from the heavens.  Daily, members of the church receive instruction, comfort, and direct communication from a merciful and loving Heavenly Father.  Ever since the Restoration—which as we know, began with a moment of personal revelation—we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been blessed with continuous church-wide revelation through our beloved prophets.  Since that time, we have been given the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, in addition to receiving inspired words from General Conference and from our beloved local church leaders on the Stake and Ward level.  I testify that these thoughtful Priesthood leaders are indeed linked in with the heavens and receive constant spiritual guidance on behalf of all of us.  We feel the fruits of this every time we experience the comfort and peace of the Holy Ghost in a church meeting, as well as in many other ways and venues.
We have been promised that the gift of revelation will never again be removed from the earth.  Because we know this to be true, and because we know of Heavenly Father’s love for us, we can be sure that the ways for personal revelation are open to us individually.  Each and every one of us are indeed blessed.
Elder Hales has described personal revelation as “the way we know for ourselves the most important truths of our existence: the living reality of God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ; the truthfulness of the restored gospel; and God’s purpose and direction for us.” 
Elder Bednar described it thus, “Revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The Holy Ghost is a revelator,” and “no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 132).  Elder Bednar continues: “The spirit of revelation is available to every person who receives by proper priesthood authority the saving ordinances of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost—and who is acting in faith to fulfill the priesthood injunction to “receive the Holy Ghost.”
That means that every Sunday as we take the Sacrament, we are reminded about this great gift.  Indeed, the words “that they may always have his Spirit to be with Them” tell us that we should be striving toward having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in our lives and be in a position to receive personal revelation regularly. 
Recognizing and Receiving Promptings
So, how to we get ourselves in that critical position where we can recognize and receive promptings from the Holy Ghost? 
If we are seeking for personal revelation from God, then one of the first things we should consider is prayer.  It is simply said, “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”  Remember that we receive revelation only for ourselves or those under our direct stewardship. 
We must also be living as the Lord directs, working to be obedient to the commandments and the council of our church leaders as much as we possibly can.  We should be obedient in repenting of our sins and taking the sacrament on a regular basis. 
Revelation takes an element of faith.  After all, how can we ask for answers to our questions if we don’t believe that we’ll get them?  The answers to our prayers are revealed according to the Lord’s manner and according to His own schedule.  Sometimes the answers are really not what we expect, and it takes it element of faith to go and do whatever.  Additionally, waiting on revelation can take what is known as a “trial of our faith,” wherein we are tested before sacred truths are imparted.  The Lord must be sure that we are ready to listen.  He gives us experiences that will help us grow to understand his will.
We must be prepared to listen to the gentle stirrings of the Spirit.  This often takes a quiet moment of reflection, or even a piece of action as we strive to fulfill the parts of the Lord’s will that we already understand, whether that be reading the scriptures, serving our neighbors, or listening to church hymns.    
Personal revelation can come to us in many ways.  It can come in the form of testimony, through the mouth of a prophet, by comfort, by feelings of restraint or confirmation, or as pure thought when ideas come into the mind, or in dreams or visions.  Sometimes we are impelled into action by the Spirit.  We can experience any of these, though some will undoubtedly be familiar than others to certain people.  At other times the Lord may wish us to make decisions according to our own judgment, such as those day-to-day more non-consequential things of life. 
Regardless of the means by which the Lord communicates, we have been taught that “Assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive. …

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation. …” (D&C 8:1–3.)

Revelation at Liberty Jail:
                There are numerous accounts of personal revelation in the scriptures, but my ultimate favorite is when Joseph Smith received comfort from the Father while in Liberty Jail.  A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Liberty Jail for the first time.  I thought it a little odd that church members would want to memorialize this site.  I also thought it odd to learn that it had the nickname of “the temple prison.”  The conditions in the jail were harsh, and the charges of treason fabricated.  They had been there for months during the cold winter.  Joseph Smith and his companions were freezing, and sickness was ever at hand.  They were in perpetual gloom as there was little light to see by.  Even worse was the knowledge that their families were being forced from Missouri at the time. 
The pamphlet I saved from my visit there reads “The Historic Jail is a sacred place to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… Liberty Jail was a place of painful refining for Joseph Smith and his companions.  As Joseph tried to pen words of consolation to the suffering saints, revelation and comfort were received.”            
This revelatory occurrence is recorded in D & C 121: 1-3; 7-8:
“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?

2How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

 3Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?

7And then the answer: My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

8And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

The Lord stands ready to give us revelation.  All we have to do is put ourselves in a position to receive it.  Sometimes, He will even give us difficult experiences that will help to place us in these receptive places, as when Joseph Smith learned comfort from the Holy Ghost in Liberty Jail.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “It wasn’t until the prophet was physically confined that his mind was fully liberated… The double walls, four feet thick, kept Joseph and his companions in, but they could not keep the spirit and revelation out.” 
This inward Spiritual positioning often, but not always, requires a “trial of our faith.”  Certainly, the awful conditions of Liberty Jail provided this trial.  But in that moment of great physical darkness came truths of brilliance and clarity, enough that we now name that site as “the temple prison.” 
My Own Temple-Prison, Big and Small Moments:
This last Fall, while recovering from a serious surgery, I spent hours confined in bed, unable to move and in great pain.  I was on heavy medications that prevented me from thinking clearly as well.  From that and other recent problems, my physical and spiritual foundations had been rocked in every way and desperately I yearned for comfort and specific answers to my prayers.  I needed to know what Heavenly Father’s will was for me, and I needed the strength to do it.  After weeks of physical confinement and mental darkness, and what I can easily describe as a serious “trial of my faith,” I finally received answers to my spiritual dilemma.  In one great moment of personal revelation, I had whole sentences from my patriarchal blessing appear in mind.  From that day forward I was able to move on and I healed at a rapid pace.  Despite my drug-induced mental state, I will never forget that moment of clarity and comfort.  At the time, it was the greatest of all the gifts my Heavenly Father could bestow.
 This experience was flanked by other, less impressive, but no less profound bits of inspiration.  One Sunday Priesthood holders brought the sacrament to my home.  I experienced significant feelings of comfort and light for hours afterward, and inexpressible gratitude.  It is one of my favorite Sabbath day memories. 
When listening to Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs over and over again while endlessly lying in bed, I heard the song All Things Bright and Beautiful, and learned that the Lord truly knew every cell in my body and had dominion over them all.  The song How Firm a Foundation taught me that the Lord would succor me “in every condition, in sickness and in health” even “as my days would demand.”  The song I Stand All Amazed reminded me that Jesus Christ had suffered everything I was going through and that he would give me grace through the enabling power of the atonement to get through my most difficult struggles.  I would lean on the revelatory knowledge of my Savior’s love for me for months as I regained my balance and the use of my whole body, struggled with exhaustion, discovered new memory problems, and as my clumsy hands relearned how to change my child’s diapers.
Later in D$C section 121, verses 26-28 it says, “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;
27Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the  fulness of their glory;

28A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld…”

Obviously, not all moments of spiritual revelation are the big Aha! moments.   Sometimes, it is easy to forget that revelation can come in a quiet, understated way.  We often hear stories of the big, flashy moments of insight, but most personal revelation is the quiet and simple kind.  It is the spiritual prompting received by a mother, reminding her to go pick up her kid from school, or for a father as he yearns to spend time with his family.  It’s the nudge telling you to call a friend, or the urgent feeling to get up and bear your testimony in church.  It can be the quiet comfort received after a prayer.  After Eva was born, I found myself sadly unprepared for motherhood in all ways but one: for a short time after her birth I was blessed with a listening stillness in my soul that allowed me to discern from the Spirit the ways to take care of my small baby.  Certainly the Father showed his love for me and my newly born child.  Those were moments of grace as I learned how to hold her from the best tutor imaginable.  
                One of the most important functions of personal revelation, and a reason why we MUST have it, is that it is the way by which we come to know of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ.  We gain our testimonies of his atonement.  From this crucial bit of knowledge we then come to understand the ways by which we and our loved ones can return home to our Heavenly Father.
                For Mika, who is leaving on his mission soon, just one paragraph: Thank you for being a dedicated home teacher to our family.  Because of your faithfulness and obedience in doing such a simple task, I have faith that the Lord will bless you with the important gift of personal revelation.  As you continue to practice your faith and bear your testimony as a missionary, you will come to learn Spiritual truths that will carry you through life.  It will be wonderful.  If you can dedicate yourself fully to this mission, then even your times of hardship will become temple-like moments when you can come to really know and love your Savior.   
My testimony is that revelation is real.  Personal revelation can sustain us through any trial, lead us in courage to do what is right, and greatly help us to understand the Lord’s will for us.  I’ve had a primary song running through my head the last few days.  It says: “When Jesus Christ was baptized / Down in the river Jordan / The Holy Ghost descended as gentle as a dove.”  I am grateful that we have the example of Jesus Christ, that we could be baptized and experience the gift of the Holy Ghost.  We are truly blessed.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jack of All Trades

 In which our Heroine falls in Love (again). 

          I have a new love.  I know I’ve already exhausted the topic, but I am quite ardent about my little seedlings.  In a recent conversation with my mother, I was documenting my various successes as novice gardener.  I was astonished to hear her claim no love for planting seedlings.  Now, I can clearly remember her making a very successful go at corn and carrot seedlings in our garden, but I can’t recall much more about the small plants.  Nevertheless, I nearly dropped the phone at her casual pronouncement.  Not like seedlings?  What’s not to love?
          Thus far in my short gardening career, I can find no greater joy than in buying cheap seed packets (or procuring them for free from family and neighbors), planting them carefully, and then nurturing them along.  Each seedling is a fragile little thing, and I’ll admit that there is great disappointment when they sometimes fail, but to see even one thrive is immensely satisfying.  Something in my chest goes all gloppy and mushy when I spot a new sprout.  I can’t wait to see them grow, grow, grow.  There is a possibility that seeing a mature plant produce fruit will be even better—and if so, then I can’t wait!
          I think I’ve missed my calling in life.  I’ve officially announced to Jon that moving to a place with flat land and ample sunlight would be acceptable—especially if he provides me with a humongous greenhouse.  (Wouldn’t it be great to do this all year long?)  His answer was typical.  It went something like this, “Sounds good… I’ll look into it.” I’m pretty certain that he filed my imaginary huge greenhouse next door to my large art studio, complete with pottery wheel and kiln, which is located somewhere near my personal publishing house, my dairy house (so I can make expensive cheeses at home—no busty dairy maids included), the museum dedicated to my favorite artists and named after yours truly, where I will engage in curatorial ecstasies, oh—and my consummate future collection of the odd instrument, to be played at pending “creativity soirees,” (basically, a big, well-catered party based solely on my favorite themes, which may occasionally change from time to time).  Am I really asking for so much?

Friday, May 13, 2011

How to Build an Ugly Greenhouse

In which our Heroine waxes Eloquent on Greenhouse Structures. 

There are a gazillion good instruction sets out there on the internet for those who want to build a real greenhouse.  I really suggest you go find one of those sites instead of reading this blog post.  But if you’re in the market for a temporary, under $25 kind of structure, this is the way to do it.  Mind, it’s not pretty, and strong winds will tear the sucker apart, but hopefully you’ll get a few seedlings out of the deal.  Besides, who wants this ugly thing sitting in their teensy back yard all summer?
1.       Buy some PVC pipe and some clear plastic stuff.  Do try to plan your structure out beforehand.  Otherwise, you’ll be building it in the middle of the plumbing isle at Home Depot with your toddler in tow. 
2.       When at the checkout, make sure the high-school-aged employee has actually scanned ALL the items—especially when discussing the enthralling subject of PVC-built geodesic domes.  Otherwise, your nagging conscience will force you to pay this unlikely store a second visit in the same day.  (Seriously, though, that kid deserves a raise for his awesomeness of conversation.  No harm done anyway, because the customer service lady was so shocked at my honesty that she gave me the whole caboodle for free!)  And my conscience is clear.
3.       Build the PVC part.  It’s almost as fun as legos.  You will know how to do this if your mom was cool enough to have put PVC lengths and joints in your toy box as a child.
4.       If needed, tape your two pieces of plastic stuff together.  If you are smart enough to plan in a doorway (tent old-school style), then don’t tape 6 feet at the end.  Oops. 
5.       Draw the plastic over the top of the PVC framework.  Don’t be afraid to use random junk leftover from the previous owners of your house to weigh down the plastic.
6.       Put some old cardboard down on the floor so weeds don’t take over completely.
7.       Stick your little seedlings, and etc…, inside.
Ah, the life and times of the newbie gardener.  After a bad spell with half of my seedlings “damping off,” I have since replanted.  Some of the better seedlings have made it into larger transplanting containers as well.  My mother-in-law hacked off a section of her rhubarb root ball, which is now planted in a not-so-great place in my back yard—but hey, it’s rhubarb—it can handle it.  I have infiltrated the neighboring Methodist Church’s parking lot to destroy an offending bush before it tried to rip up the remainder of my pathetic fence.  I now have a little, ugly greenhouse which allows my Alaskan backyard to feel about 90 degrees Fahrenheit in a 4 by 5 foot space, even though it is actually only 60 degrees outside.  Also you’ll see my new flagstone area to the left of Ugly Greenhouse No. 1 in the photo.  All items for the flagstone thingy were found objects—and thusly were free, minus back-breaking labor.  Incidentally, I may leave the unsightly mess of PVC and plastic up all summer and even into the fall so my late-planted vegetables have a shot of making it.  I will string Christmas lights into the structure when extra heat is needed.  Knowing Alaska, this may happen as early as August.