Thursday, October 28, 2010

Working on my Bucket List

There is a lot of talk these days about bucket lists, mainly due to a popular movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  Great movie; I enjoyed it.  A few years back I bought a book called "1000 Places to See Before You Die."  It contains a huge selection of the most valued experiences a person can have, according to someone's opinion anyway.  And then awhile ago I bought another book called "500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late."  Are you seeing a trend?  I have been buying into this idea that we should all be living life to its fullest because eventually we are all going to kick the "bucket" and don't want to have any regrets.

Even with all this outward stimuli, I never really sat down and wrote a bucket list, though I certainly was adequately armed with all those "don't miss" suggestions.  But I have always dreamed of places I wanted to see and adventures I was certain would give more meaning to my life.

Then it happened.  I was given a dose of reality.  I was forced to look straight in the face of my husband's mortality, and consequently, that of my own mortality.  And I was startled to see how much they go hand-in-hand.  Our lives are so intertwined that as I saw the threat to his life, I felt it as a threat to my own; certainly to my life as I know it, that of being with a companion that offers love and livelihood and laughter.
So I decided to think a little more about a bucket list, a list of all the things I want to experience and accomplish before I kick that darn, rusty bucket.  As I did so, armed with paper and pen, an interesting thing happened.  I thought I would write fast and furiously, anxious to get on the paper all the amazing destinations I have yet to see.

Didn't happen.  Instead, my mind turned to an interesting process of prioritizing.  Suddenly the most important things became time with family; and trips to meaningful places.  There are a few personal accomplishments that I would still like to see happen, but realistically, I feel satisfied with most of the things I have filled my years with.  I have educated myself, in lieu of a formal college degree.  I have studied the scriptures and taught many lessons from what I have learned.  I have explored my creative side, using a variety of mediums to beautify and chronicle my life.  Most importantly, I have nurtured four amazing children into adulthood, and fostered significant relationships with a wonderful group of family and friends.

Here is my bucket list, so far.  It isn't long.  It is filled with my lifelong dreams of exploring the homelands of beloved book characters and authors.  Some are just traveling to places that have intrigued me for one reason or another.  Nothing is frivolous.  Everything is reasonable, I think. 

  1. Write a book, and get it published (This one is close!)
  2. Tour Great Britain by car
  3. Serve at least one mission with my husband
  4. Visit Hilton-Head Island, South Carolina
  5. Visit New Orleans, Louisiana
  6. Visit Chicago, Illinois
  7. Take a thorough Church History Tour
  8. Nurture a personal relationship with each grandchild
  9. Revisit painting--take a class again
  10. Learn to use Photoshop
  11. Take a train trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, in a sleeper car
  12. Visit Paris, France
  13. Cross the English Channel at Dover
  14. Explore Plymouth Harbor; sail in a tall ship
  15. Take a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River
  16. Take a New England Fall Color Tour
  17. Go back to Wichita, Kansas someday
  18. Have a family reunion in Hawaii
  19. Explore the Alps of Switzerland
  20. Visit the Holy Land
  21. Sure, we better throw in there Mt. Rushmore...
How does your list compare?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finding Joy

This is my way of finding joy on this trip.  Miranda went for a photo walk and gave me the SD card when she returned.  It may not be firsthand, but I love seeing the beach from her point of view.  Thanks, Miranda, for sharing your joy.

All photo credits:  Miranda Haws

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Forget

The message is difficult to see; sometimes it is even more difficult to remember.  But our lives are not meant to last forever.  Our earthly test is finite, and ours to discover.  The greatest blessing we can receive is a wake-up call.  Suddenly everything looks different.  The winds blow harder; the calms between storms are more appreciated.

Don't forget.  Don't forget to enjoy life.  Let us live with gratitude every day for every blessing and every trial that sends us to our knees.

Photo Credit:  Miranda Haws

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unspoken Words

Do you ever find that there are some words we choose to leave unspoken?  That even though they weigh heavily upon our minds, it is easier to just ignore their reality?  We look at the bright side, and quietly push away the "what might have been".

We have had one of the longest weeks of our lives, and it hasn't even been a whole week yet.  We have experienced concern, worry, relief, more concern, curiosity, wonder, gratitude, more concern.  Yet through it all we try to keep in the background the fact that our lives, though disrupted, have not been changed in the biggest way imaginable.  I know we have each thought about it individually.  I know that we have said many silent prayers of relief that the inevitable has been avoided for now. We have communicated this relief with our eyes, and with meaningful embraces, choosing not to actually say out loud what we have all been thinking.

We talk about new perspective.  We talk about a new lease on life.  We step out on our new path, determined to appreciate everything on a new level.

And yet we never say the words.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Autumn of My Life

It recently occurred to me that I am now smack dab in the Autumn of my life.  The days of 'younger than Springtime' are so long ago and far away I can hardly remember them.  The Summer of my life, when things were at their busiest, raising my children, having lots of energy and lots of big dreams, seems to have faded and been replaced by Autumn. 

The colors now are changing and fading; things are becoming dry and wrinkled and crinkly.  The barometer registers regularly in the aches and pains of knees and feet and hands.  But Autumn has always been a favorite time for me. I won't wish it away.  I love the cooler weather that invites cozy clothes and a slower pace.  The shorter days require fewer activities to fill them and encourage quiet evenings at home, hunkered down with a blanket and a good movie or a compelling book.

It certainly is a time of adjustment, but the changes are welcome.  My family is growing, but without me having to do the nine-month thing anymore.  I don't mind letting that task fall to others. 

I intend to use this time for gathering in the harvest of my life's efforts, to draw my family to me as often as possible.  And I intend to spend everyday in some form of Thanksgiving.

Summer is past.  Youth is over.  But I am still here, still full of life and love, ready to embrace this season of change.  May it come gently and graciously.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finally got it Right

For years I have faced a dilemma.  There is nothing more comforting to me than a nice cup of hot chocolate.  As soon as the weather turns chilly at all, I immediately take the opportunity to wrap my hands around a heated mug, drawing warmth to my hands as well as my insides.

But the challenge lies in that most cocoa mixes are just too sweet.  Why would I want to pour all that sugar into my body, when all I really want is the chocolate?  I have tried 'sugar-free' cocoa mixes.  They work in a pinch but are not all that satisfying.  I have a recipe for cocoa that is not too sweet but it makes a large batch.  This is great for me but not welcomed by my family because they like it sweeter, so it usually goes to waste.

Recently, my daughter Miranda, who worked at a cafe and became expert at making cappuccinos and lattes, taught me the fine art of steaming milk.  I began to see that this had promise towards the perfect cup of hot chocolate.  Then through a lot of fun experimenting (Thanks, Suzie!) with chocolate chips and flavored creamers, I finally found the perfect combination for me.

I steam a mug of milk until it is piping hot and frothy and foamy.  I stir in a block of unsweetened baking chocolate which I have chopped.  Are you with me?  Milk and chocolate so far.  That's all.  Then I add a small amount of French Vanilla coffee creamer that has just a little bit of sugar in it.

I did it!  I found the recipe for the most satisfying, amazing cup of heaven.  I can drink it without feeling like I am having dessert for breakfast. 

I'll save the sugar for the donut....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Help Me to Walk in Meekness

The ugliness of the world is mounting.  The persecution to those refusing to call evil good is escalating.  Do we jump into the fray?  Join the debate?  Get our feathers ruffled, too?

The answer, once again, lies in following the example of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  We love unconditionally; we show kindness to all; and we "walk in the meekness of (His) Spirit"(D&C 19:23). He didn't argue; He didn't protest; He didn't even bother trying to defend Himself in that ridiculous, degrading mock trial.  He simply stood strong and silent. And His promise, to those who follow His example of meekness: "and you shall have peace in me." 

Does that mean peace in our world?  Perhaps not, but it does mean peace in our hearts and in our homes.

The Savior has tried to prepare us for this ugliness which He knew would come.  He has counseled what to do when we "shall see an overflowing scourge, a desolating sickness (which) shall cover the land:  But my disciples shall stand in holy places and shall not be moved" (D&C 45:32).

That is what I am choosing to do.  I am working to preserve the holiness of my home, which is fast-becoming one of the few refuges available to me and my family. Our efforts to make our home a holy place will not be in vain:  "If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy" (D&C 124:44).

We can and must do something to build God's Kingdom here on the earth.  I submit that our most effective efforts will be made in a gentle and meek way; not in raising our voices in angry protest against those that would criticize and persecute.  I believe that is how the Savior chooses to have us represent Him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yes, We already know who wins.

No, history is not rewritten.  The astounding Triple Crown victory of the 70's is honestly depicted and anyone that is at least my age watched the true story unfold in real life.  Then why make a movie that everyone already knows how it will end?
Because it is one of the great stories of our day.  It is just plain exciting to cheer that beautiful horse on, already knowing that somehow he will find a way to move up from last place to first, because we all remember when he did.  It is inspiring to see someone have a dream and run the whole race to see it through; to not give up when the odds aren't in her favor, or when logic and reason would tell her to quit.

Life is full of naysayers, trying to bring us down, telling us it "can't be done."  I appreciate an uplifting family movie, one that is full of action and excitement, and yet is also full of hope reminding us that dreams are attainable.

Take your family to see "Secretariat: The Impossible True Story," from Walt Disney Pictures.  You will walk away smiling.  I promise.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

If there is anything virtuous, or lovely

...or of good report, or praiseworthy, I assuredly am seeking after it.  There are so many worthwhile treasures hidden amidst the garbage of our lives and our society.  At times, it becomes difficult to find the beautiful. At times, they are in plain sight but we train our eyes to look beyond them.

Last night, I had one of the most overwhelmingly beautiful experiences of my life.
At the invitation of friends, Brian and I went to Portland to see the Oregon Ballet Theatre's production of The Sleeping Beauty.  As I sat in the darkened theatre, the lushness of set design, the lavishness of costume, the sheer athleticism of trained dancers drew me in and held me spellbound.  But it was the music, the classic masterpiece of Peter Tchaikovsky, that made me weep.  Even now as I consider the lovely themes repeated throughout, my heart is full of gratitude for excellence, for unparalleled power and beauty that has transcended the decades and, even now, thrills audiences just as it did when it was introduced in 1890 in St. Petersburg.

In Tchaikovsky's own words, describing his commission to score the ballet:  "The subject is so poetic, so grateful for music, that I have worked on it with delight, and written it with the warmth and enthusiasm upon which the worth of a composition so much depends." 

That warmth and enthusiasm and poetry are evident throughout and sing with the strings. 

The Artistic Director of the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Christopher Stowell, calls The Sleeping Beauty:  "the pinnacle of Tchaikovsky's music.  If anyone can conjure up a better sound-scape for a fairy tale, I want to hear it."

Even the geniuses at Walt Disney Studios recognized the timelessness of this music, and found ways to interweave Tchaikovsky's themes throughout their animated classic, Sleeping Beauty.  Their use of this music has wound its way into my heart all through my life.  

Perhaps that is what struck such a chord with me. It possessed an air of familiarity, an enchanting melody that often accompanies my subconscious moments, or becomes a soundtrack for my daydreams.  It all came alive in a "bigger than life" way.  It was like stepping into one of my favorite parallel realms and losing myself in the magnificence. 

There is a reason The Sleeping Beauty has set the standard for classical ballet.  One hundred and twenty years ago in St. Petersburg, through the collaborative efforts of inspired artists, The Sleeping Beauty:  "lifted an art form that had evolved for 500 years to new heights, won the youth of their generation over to ballet, and created a work that still speaks to peope of all times and all cultures....To my mind, it is here that we find the deeper theme of The Sleeping Beauty, much more than the Perrault fairy tale," says Stowell.  "In striving for the purest and most beautiful dancing, the art form of ballet finds continual reawakening.  This is classical virtue in the fullest sense of the word.  It's about aristocratic responsibility, not in an elitist way, but in the sense that a leader should be the most virtuous, the one who sets the finest example."

I am grateful there is a benchmark, an ideal, that sets a standard of virtue.  May it continue for another hundred years to inspire, to thrill, to entertain, to uplift.  This is why we have the Arts.  This lifts spirits.  This elevates our thinking and our dreaming.  May it whisper to your heart the way it whispered to mine:

"I know you; I walked with you once upon a dream..."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm Learning So Much

I need to take a break from my project, to come up for a little air.  I have been working on my book, and what a process it is.  Very interesting!  I am learning a lot about myself.  I am learning how I best work, what distracts me the most, and what I am willing to sacrifice in order to be productive.

I am certain that if I hadn't received such kind encouragement from my friends and family I never would have  embarked on this incredible journey.  I have felt inspiration and direction, and I am excited to be pursuing this lifelong dream.

My book is a non-fiction work focussing on a personal discovery.  It isn't a long book; it succinctly describes my journey accompanied by what I hope is motivation to embark on a similar personal journey of one's own.

My working title is "It Beginneth to be Delicious to Me."

I am fine-tuning now; verifying references; trimming the fat.  My goal is to be ready to submit it for publication by the end of the month.  I have passed it to a few people to pre-read, seeking input, suggestions, and mostly validation that I am on the right track.

Their comments have been very encouraging.

While I am realistic about the likelihood of rejection, my husband and I are commited to finding a way to make sure this is published.  He is my greatest supporter, and his faith in me is very gratifying.

I will try to keep my blog readers updated on the process.  Let's hope for the best!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Safety of Shoes, or the Flippancy of Flip-Flops?

Here is a delightful talk from the Priesthood Session of the recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Enjoy!