Monday, May 30, 2011

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

I still hear them singing.  For years I followed the Sprague High School Concert Choir all over the country as a devoted choir mom.  Where they went, I went.  Where they sang, I listened.  I internalized their music, their sound, their spirit.  It was a unique and memorable experience.

While every piece of music they performed was a favorite, the haunting chords of "Flanders Fields" still echo through my memory.  The words were touching, impacting these high school students as they realized the significance of their meaning.  They understood the weight of what they sang, and imparted a mood that was stirring.  Solemn.  Breathtaking.  Heartwrenching.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved.....

Here was a group of youth that had the world by the tail.  Their future held such great promise, and now they sang of those who short days ago also had had the world by the tail, who had lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, had loved and were loved.....  I think it was more than a little humbling.

I knew of poppies too.  Years before, when I was these students' age, I learned of the poppies of Flanders fields.  Does anyone else remember selling paper poppies for Memorial Day?  As a Girls State Delegate for the State of Idaho, I was asked by the sponsoring Veterans of Foreign Wars to take my turn selling red crepe paper poppies, a remembrance of the sacrifice given by so many to retain the cause of freedom.

It was a small thing.  And yet I felt a part of something great; something bigger than my own little world.

To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch.

Great sacrifices have been given, and yet the fight isn't over.  The torch passes from one generation to the next, a desperate call for courage against evil men.  May we not fail those who have given their lives for this sacred cause.  And amid the cookouts and the picnics of this holiday, may we not fail to remember them.
And give thanks.

To learn more about this poem and the history of the poppies on Flanders Field:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Write Your Own Ending

I am noticing a trend.  Many of the movies I have seen lately seem to end very abruptly.  I mean, like they don't even bother to finish the story.  Really.  Like completely leaving the audience out on a limb with no firm direction on which way things will end. Perhaps this is considered the "artsy" thing to do. Is it the perception of Independent film producers that mainstream movies placate viewers with the "entire" story because of society's inability to think broadly.   We,(collective we) must need everything tied up in a neat, tidy, little package; we apparently lack the imagination to finish the story on our own.

Wait just a minute.  I paid for the ticket.  I entered the theater with the expectation of seeing a movie.  A whole movie; one with a beginning, a middle, and the ever important denouement.  That is just the fancy literary term for "the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot."

Well, lately, instead of walking away with that warm, satisfying feeling of happy resolve, or even sad resolve, I have been getting NO resolve.  And I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Does this mean that I have fallen into step with the masses that need everything done for them?  Have I given up the agency of thinking for myself by insisting that a movie have a conclusion?

Maybe this gives us a glimpse of our impatience with life.  Isn't it human nature to want to know how the story ends? especially our own story?  And yet we don't.  We can't.  How many of us have really gotten the guarantee of a happily ever after?  Gosh, I wish I could.  And yet, everyday when I get out of bed, I become the director of my own motion picture.  I get to make wardrobe decisions, set decisions, cinematography decisions, even casting decisions.  Ultimately, all the decisions remain with me.  The buck stops here.  I can make excuses, or try and place blame, or feel sorry for myself.

Nah.  That is the coward's way out.  I believe I do prefer to think for myself, to imagine how life could be and then take the steps to see it through.  Will it mean that there will be times of unsettled limbo? Wondering what comes next, or who will win?  Of course.  But it also means that I get to decide who will ride into the sunset with me.

Life's like a movie, write your own ending
Keep believing, keep pretending
We've done just what we set out to do.
Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and you. ;-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Please Stop the World; I'm Getting Dizzy.

The ride has become tedious.  I am tired of the same old same old. Same old.......Same......old. 

Have you ever been on an amusement park ride that was whipping you around too much? that was threatening to make you lose your lunch and if it didn't stop soon you couldn't be held accountable for what happened next?

This isn't like that.

Instead, it is like an old-fashioned record player.  The music has stopped, and yet the record goes around and around and around and around, with nothing to commend it except the monotonous blip........blip........blip as it gets to the end with nowhere else to go.

And it is my own fault.  I am not making good use of my precious gift of time.  I don't feel needed.  I don't feel productive.  I don't....anything.  blip.......blip.......blip.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Living in the Land of Oz

Part of my heart remains in the Midwest, and especially today as they are facing more destruction from those deadly storms, my thoughts are with the friends I left behind.  I lived in Wichita, Kansas for four years and still remember the feeling of a tornado warning.  I remember the stillness that would come before the storm.  I remember the air charged with electricity.  I remember the sense of doom.  I remember the blackness.

As one that has spent most of my life in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, my first impression of Kansas was that it is very FLAT.  Really.  Everything seemed to be the same elevation (making it particularly vulnerable to tornadoes).  How does one get one's bearings when there isn't a permanent mountain range standing as an ever present landmark?

I also remember getting out of the car for the first time in Wichita and trying to breathe in the thick, humid air.  Life was certainly going to be different than what I was used to.

But I loved the hot sunshine.  I loved getting the best tans of my life, and spending the summers at the pool.  I loved my little circle of friends, most of them kids from church. 

I will always think fondly of my days in Wichita, although it may have been one of the most difficult times of my life.  As a new 7th grader beginning Junior High, my slate of friends had been wiped clean and I knew I must start all over. That is an awkward time in one's life anyway and I struggled with the extra challenge of being the new kid.  But as the summer after 9th grade came along, with a pending move to Idaho, I was heartbroken.  I had found friends; good friends, whom I loved.
 My prayers are with my Midwestern friends today.  May they safely weather the storms that rage about them.  May their loved ones escape unharmed.  May they feel the love of heaven protecting them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What is Your Compulsion?

I wonder if other people feel the same compulsion to write, as I do.  I know that everyone's mind is filled with a continuous rotation of thoughts.  Often they are new; frequently they are problems or worries that are recycled.  Over and over again.  My question is if everyone finds therapy in writing those thoughts down.  Nothing is quite so therapeutic as sitting, with a pen in hand, and transferring those daydreams onto paper.

It helps me.  It enables me to focus on one idea at a time.  I am forced to slow down, to organize, to wrap words around feelings and ideas.  Suddenly random streams of consciousness become tamed and absolute.

Is anyone ever surprised when they go back to previous journals and re-read earlier disclosures?  I always am.  It is remarkable to discover what I have previous thought and recorded.  Usually it sounds a little familiar; occasionally it startles; always it enlightens, as I peel back the layers of the mystery that is me.

We had a lesson in church last Sunday about discovering talents.  The idea was presented that we should pay attention and follow the tendencies we have, the inklings, the promptings.  Things we gravitate toward often are where our genuine abilities perhaps may be hidden.

I think I have tried to encourage this in my children.  I wonder, though, if I take those interests of my own as seriously as I hope that they will.  Over the years my interests have flitted from one thing to another.  I become consumed with something, try to master it, and then eventually move on to discover something new.

Have I always succeeded in my efforts?  I don't know.  Have I discovered great treasures of miraculous hidden talents?  No.  Has my life been enriched by a variety of delightful hobbies?  Absolutely.

So it comes back to the question:  does everyone feel the compulsion to write?

I do.

That We Might Have Joy

After all these years, I think I am finally beginning to understand.  Sure, we came to this earth to get a body.  Sure, we came to be tested and tried.  But how often do we forget that the greatest gift of a loving Father in Heaven is the opportunity to have joy.  Not just happiness, but pure joy.

I am also beginning to understand the source for that joy.  It doesn't lie in worldly things, in possessions, in the accumulation of "stuff". It doesn't lie in prestige nor accolades nor credit.  Rather, joy comes from humility; in taking responsibility for our own situations, in not placing blame, nor giving anyone the control of how we feel. It comes when we recognize that we are not the authority on anything, but that true light and knowledge comes from Christ if we are humble enough to seek after it.

Joy comes from the sacrifice of things that we thought would bring us joy.  It comes from feeling the love of our Savior as prayers are answered and comfort is given; in learning that we are stronger than we thought we were.

Photo Credit:  Brock.alli.Photography

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making His Presence Known

They come by the boatloads.  Everyday.  They purchase a ticket with high hopes of seeing striking aerial acrobatics by behemoths of the deep.  Following sonar equipment, these boatloads position themselves directly out my window, as they wait to catch a glimpse of a whale. Surveying the surface for a telltale spout, the lucky few spot additional evidence of these mythical giants, the gray hump of a back, or sometimes a tail.

While migratory seasons bring increased activity, we are privileged to have a pod that remains year-round in the cool, inviting waters off the Oregon Coast.  I'm not convinced that these whale watchers, for their ticket, really get any better show than I do; I, who am dry and warm and cozy behind expansive windows that yield an unparalleled view.  A telescopic lens doesn't hurt either.

In contemplating the big deep, which stretches endlessly past the visible horizon, which contains otherworldly creatures, which for centuries has issued its sirens' song to the adventurous bidding them to come, explore, and discover; I marvel at its power; I marvel at the gifts it generously gives;  I marvel at its beauty, which is ever changing and ever the same.

I marvel every time I am fortunate enough to spend some time at the beach.

'Tis the Business of Little Minds to Shrink

Sometimes I pick up a pen to learn.  Sometimes I have no idea what I plan to write, but I have confidence that the juices will begin to flow as I take a leap of faith.  What follows is what spilled out today:

I had some rather disappointing news yesterday.  Yet again, a publisher returned my manuscript, uninterested.  Discouraged?  Yes.  The end of the world?  No.  Do I still have options?  Yes.  Does it take a little courage to pick myself up, dust myself off, and begin again?  Most certainly.

I still believe in my project.  I still believe it has something to offer the reader that wants to reaffirm and solidify his scripture study habit.  Is it fresh, original, and cutting edge?  Perhaps not, but then again, what eternal truths are fresh, original, and cutting edge?

My book is built upon a foundation of important scriptures and quotes from modern prophets about the importance of reading The Book of Mormon, and of valuing this amazing, miraculous gift that has been written, preserved, and brought forth for our learning by the hand of the Lord.  It is interspersed with my own personal experiences as I challenged myself to improve my own study.  It is filled with testimony of the surety of God's blessings upon those that are diligent.  It is meant to be encouraging, inspiring, and to get the reader into the scriptures with both feet.

I felt directed to write about my experience, knowing that there must surely be others who weren't making as valiant an effort as they could be either.  It took courage to admit my shortcomings, but the resultant opening of my eyes, the increased appetite to feast at the Lord's table, and the rekindled love of gospel study had to be recorded, if nothing else than for my own posterity to know of my conviction.

I believe my journey has the power to strike a chord with someone else.  That was my motive.  And I still believe it is worth being published.

A friend posted a timely quote this morning.  It shot straight through my heart and gave me courage to continue on this path less traveled:  "’Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Oh, may my heart take courage and my mind not shrink.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Request is Too Extreme

Have you ever wished for something so hard that it hurt?  Have you ever dreamt of something for so long that it became apart of who you are?  Everyone loves Disney; that is a given, I think.  But there is one little girl that loved it the most.  Everything about it.  It spoke her language.  She even looked and sounded like she was a displaced Disney Darling.  Her whole life has been lived from one Disney trip to the next.  Only when she was in The Happiest Place was she really whole.

So when the opportunity arose to become part of the Disney College Program, it seemed like a perfect fit for this girl.  This is a program that recruits applicants from college campuses.  They hire students to become "Cast Members", their generic term for anyone who works in the Kingdom.  These cast members work everywhere, from being in the limelight as characters to sweeping up after everyone has gone home.
My youngest daughter, Miranda, set her sights upon this as soon as she learned of it, several years ago.  Determined that nothing would stand in her way, she studied up on it and planned for the day she would finally be able to submit her application.

One question asked on the application was:  Which assignment would be your first choice?  Easy.  Attractions.  This assignment has the most direct contact with the Park Guests, and the most opportunity to make others' experience in the Kingdom magical.  That's what she wanted.  She longed to be able to give back some of the magic that she had felt when she was a little girl.

During her phone interview with a college program representative, she tried to send through the phone line a glimpse of her true Disney spirit, that she had caught that spirit and was prepared to keep it alive and pass it on.  But she was also wise enough to tell them that she would even be willing to clean toilets if it meant she could be apart of it all.

Through the agony of waiting for a response, she never lost hope.  The grueling two months may have been the longest of her life.  She made lists to distract herself:  packing lists, things she wanted to do during her time off, how she would breakdown her paychecks.  Can you imagine being paid to spend five months in Walt Disney World?  It seemed like a dream come true, like something too perfect to be real.  Another benefit is a continuous free pass to any of the parks.  Really.

Finally that beautiful purple packet found its way to her little apartment.  Inside it was the key to her future.  Would she be offered a job?  Would she get her first-choice assignment, or would she be a janitor, or a shop girl, or a churro peddler?

Dear Miranda Haws:  Please accept this job offer in Walt Disney World ........ as an Attractions Cast Member!  Responsbilities may include:
  • Working at one or more of the "rides" or theater shows
  • Loading and unloading Guests from an attraction
  • Operating sophisticated ride systems
  • Memorizing and delivering lengthy narrations on a microphone to large groups (this is my pick)
  • Handling the evacuation of an attraction when necessary
  • Monitoring Guest flow and providing a safe Guest experience
  • Assisting with audience control, including during parades
  • Cleaning areas surrounding attractions
  • Working with FASTPASS
  • Standing for extended periods, working outdoors

Joy.  That is the only word to express it.  Pure and divine joy.

"If your heart is in your dream,
No request is too extreme.
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true."

No one wanted it more.
No one will make a more perfect Disney Ambassador.
Your family couldn't be more proud of you.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Our Own Sweet Caroline

One of my favorite things about my mother has always been her name.  It is old-fashioned, yet chic at the same time; a classy name that sets her apart from the crowd. Unique and yet familiar.
Her life began in a tiny town in southeastern Idaho, a tomboy that grew up on a horse, who then began leading cheers for the Bancroft Cowboys and reigning as Rodeo Queen.  That small town girl has since become a world traveler, collecting friends and silver spoons, and leaving a trail of friendship wherever she goes. 
She caught the eye of a football star from Soda Springs, and two beautiful people began their life together.
Four daughters and one son rounded out their family, and Caroline devoted her energy and enthusiasm to providing fun and adventure and security and love.  Her efforts in making a happy home were rewarded with children that are devoted to their lovely mother.
Not afraid to tackle any challenge that came along, she maintained the status as the mother that could do anything.  She still holds that honor.
I feel so blessed to call you Mother.  You have taught me about life and love and motherhood.  You have taught me about service and kindness and excellence.
Thank you.  With all my heart.
Happy Mothers Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Something's Coming

I have spent my lifetime gathering a bouquet of sorts.  The flowers in this luxe, overflowing, random arrangement don't fade, don't wilt, don't die.  Each one is special and unique and pops into my mind, each in its turn.  It is a bouquet of song lyrics.  This morning, the rhythmic "Something's Coming" from West Side Story began to take center stage of my consciousness. 

Something's coming,
I don't know
what it is,

But it is
Gonna be great!

I have always been one who thrives on the promise of something coming around the corner.  Positive expectation has kind of been the motto for our marriage, and we have always tried to have tickets, or reservations, or something to look forward to, to look past the mundane of everyday.

While our calendar is filling up with events this summer, I can't help feeling that there is something unknown, something unplanned, lurking in the wings.

What a great gift, the gift of anticipation.

It's only just out of reach,
Down the block,
On a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Maybe tonight!