Friday, April 29, 2011

Essential, Necessary, Nice-to-Do

I recently stumbled across a series of images, paired with quotes from a talk by Julie B. Beck. These address the importance of prioritizing the many activities in our lives. (I've repeated the images & quotes below.)
When I read this, I was stunned to realize which category most of my activities land in.

This feeling was only reinforced when I read an Ensign article by Elder Christofferson, To Always Remember Him. This passage particularly impressed me: and I can put Christ at the center of our lives and become one with Him as He is one with the Father (see John 17:20–23). We can begin by stripping everything out of our lives and then putting it back together in priority order with the Savior at the center. We should first put in place the things that make it possible to always remember Him—frequent prayer and scripture study, thoughtful study of apostolic teachings, weekly preparation to partake of the sacrament worthily, Sunday worship, and recording and remembering what the Spirit and experience teach us about discipleship.

Other things may come to your mind particularly suited to you at this point in your life. Once we make adequate time and means for these matters in centering our lives in Christ, we can begin to add other responsibilities and things of value, such as education and family responsibilities. In this way the essential will not be crowded out of our lives by the merely good, and things of lesser value will take a lower priority or fall away altogether.
Here are the images & text from Julie B. Beck that so impressed me:

Navigate This Life Confidently

“A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important. A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence. But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently. The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life" [my emphasis].


The things that must be taken care of to ensure the blessings of eternal life for me and my family.
  • Inviting revelation (praying always)
  • Studying scriptures daily
  • Taking time to ponder and fast
  • Making and keeping covenants (sacrament meeting, temple)
  • Loving one another


Things we have to do as a part of mortal life in order to be self-reliant and be of service to our families and the Lord.
  • Strengthening marriage and family relationships
  • Homemaking (cooking, cleaning, working)
  • Living providently
  • Giving compassionate service
  • Doing temple and family history work
  • Sharing the gospel
  • Serving in the Church


These add variety to our lives, but they won't save us.
  • Crafts
  • Hobbies
  • Recreational reading
  • Lunches with friends
  • Movies
  • Travel
  • Blogging and recreational computer time

The presentation ends with the question, "What is on your list?" I need to consider this, and then, as Elder Christofferson suggests, strip away everything, and add items back with proper consideration of their priority.

Note to self: Come back and reread this list. Often.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Blogger Goes to Illinois

Last Saturday, I drove to the Chicago Temple, in Glenview Illinois. Traffic was light, and it was a beautiful day. The trees along the highway were mostly bare, but every now and then I saw patches of yellow: daffodils? ground cover?

In one wet area, I saw lots of white birds, gulls, or pigeons, I supposed. Then I saw a lone bird flying by - a crane! (It's neck was bent, so does that make it a heron? But it was white - can herons be white?)

Every now and then, I saw a tree with spring leaves just starting to appear; I love the halo of green that spreads as the leaves start to unfurl. Out of nowhere, there was one tree, standing on its own, brilliant with green. It looked like the sort of tree a child would draw: a round green shape stuck on a tree trunk. It was wonderful!

Then I caught sight of deer, grazing among trees by the road - I counted 2, then 3 and 4, before I sped past. Just seeing them gave me an inordinate sense of happiness. I almost felt silly, but then I remembered a Mary Oliver poem, recounting moments with nature that had given her joy. Her experieneces were more personal, whereas mine were viewed from a distance, but: I take joy where I find it.

The Poet Goes to Indiana
by Mary Oliver
I'll tell you a half-dozen things
that happened to me
in Indiana
when I went that far west to teach.
You tell me if it was worth it.

I lived in the country
with my dog—
part of the bargain of coming.
And there was a pond
with fish from, I think, China.
I felt them sometimes against my feet.
Also, they crept out of the pond, along its edges,
to eat the grass.
I'm not lying.
And I saw coyotes,
two of them, at dawn, running over the seemingly
unenclosed fields.
And once a deer, but a buck, thick-necked, leaped
into the road just-oh, I mean just, in front of my car—
and we both made it home safe.
And once the blacksmith came to care for the four horses,
or the three horses that belonged to the owner of the house,
and I bargained with him, if I could catch the fourth,
he, too, would have hooves trimmed
for the Indiana winter,
and apples did it,
and a rope over the neck did it,
so I won something wonderful;
and there was, one morning,
an owl
flying, oh pale angel, into
the hay loft of a barn,
I see it still;
and there was once, oh wonderful,
a new horse in the pasture,
a tall, slim being-a neighbor was keeping her there—
and she put her face against my face,
put her muzzle, her nostrils, soft as violets,
against my mouth and my nose, and breathed me,
to see who I was,
a long quiet minute-minutes—
then she stamped feet and whisked tail
and danced deliciously into the grass away, and came back.
She was saying, so plainly, that I was good, or good enough.
Such a fine time I had teaching in Indiana.

blue sky & hyacinths

close-up of hyacinths - did you know
that hyancinth may also refer to a species
 of parrot, the hyacinth macaw?
a contented sleeping pup never fails to steal my heart

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking in the Snow

Spring time in Michigan not only means walking in the rain; it occasionally means walking in the snow! Such was the case today. We awoke to snow, and enjoyed picture-perfect snowfall during the morning. By noon, the snowfall had stopped, and by afternoon, the snow had melted.

Below are some pictures of the short-lived snowfall (and hopefully the last snowfall of the season).

Oh, I almost forgot: Last week, Bonnie & I noticed there was a cow in the woods north of the park. When it was still hanging around after a couple days, we managed to rescue it and bring it home. (Just what we need!)

Here are a couple pictures taken first thing this morning:

Our house

View from the breezeway

I took these photos during our lunch time walk (Bonnie has learned to be fairly patient while I take photos...)

A bit blurry, sorry about that - they were shivering!

And here's a photo of our new cow!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Walking in the Rain

No, the title doesn't refer to a popular song. It refers to my life in spring time, when walking the dog frequently leads to walking the dog in the rain. Such was the case today. We're watching Tonks again, and I wasn't sure how she'd feel about the rain (I know Bonnie pretty much wouldn't care, as long as we didn't need an ark).

But the weather map showed a huge circle of rain, with us smack in the middle, and no indication it would be letting up any time soon. So off we went, into the wet.

Tonks, it turns out, did just fine; she delights in good smells every bit as much as Bonnie does, and pretty much ignored the rain. We all enjoyed our walk (admittedly shorter than usual), got totally drenched, and are glad to be inside, snoozing and drying off (obviously, I'm not snoozing, but both dogs are!)

"Please Mom, don't take my picture."
"Yes! Yes! Yes! Take my picture!!!"

Tonks tries to dry off by racing and rolling, while Bonnie pretends she doesn't know that other crazy dog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daffodils and Other Flowers

Just a quick post here. We finally finished our taxes - well, almost. Jim has to check on one piece of paperwork that seems to have gone missing; hopefully that will be a quickly resolved matter. We seem to file later and later each year. I don't think we can get much later than we're filing this year; maybe that means we'll file in January next time. (What a novel concept!)

Yesterday I started week 3 of the Couch to 5K program. I managed the 3 minute runs without mishap, so I'm still feeling positive about all this.

And the flowers! The flowers are starting to appear everywhere, so I'll bore you with more pictures, and with a Wordsworth poem.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.  

New Buds...

And more flowers:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Easter Message

In his final remarks at last week's General Conference, President Monson read this poem. To me, it conveys wonder and awe and, finally, understanding.
Empty Linen,
by Emily Harris

The linen which once held Him is empty.
It lies there,
Fresh and white and clean.
The door stands opened.
The stone is rolled away,
And I can almost hear the angels singing His praises.
Linen cannot hold Him.
Stone cannot hold Him.
The words echo through the empty limestone chamber,
“He is not here.”
The linen which once held Him is now empty.
It lies there,
Fresh and white and clean
And oh, hallelujah, it is empty.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Because I so seldom exercise any sort of self-restraint, I want to point out some recent successes.

Taxes. I have started preparing our tax return. I know, this would be more impressive if taxes were not due in something like 10 days or so, but still... In an effort to make sure I had all the requisite paperwork, I have sorted the vast pile of paper that had accumulated on the floor next to the filing cabinet (not in the filing cabinet, which would certainly have been a more sensible place to accumulate papers). I have also cleared the papers from my desk (a feat that hasn't been accomplished in months). I have done this at the expense of hours of pleasurable knitting. Do I deserve chocolate?

Books. While sorting through this morass of paper, I found a newspaper clipping (from last summer) about a book that had looked interesting (Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine). I immediately logged on to our library's website to request it. Then I paused... I am currently reading a book (To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson, by Heidi S. Swinton), and have two other library books waiting somewhere in my office (Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of the lost daughters of China, by Xinran & Design It, Knit It: Babies by Debbie Bliss). Why do I feel compelled to immediately borrow yet another book that I won't have time to read? So I went to Goodreads and added it there, instead, so I'll remember it. Then I threw away the newspaper clipping. Does not this behavior merit chocolate?

Catalogs. Yesterday, we got a catalog in the mail. I flipped through it, and saw a new CD compilation of songs about women, by women (Women of Hope). They compared it favorably to an earlier compilation, Women of Destiny, and of course, their being the seller of the CD didn't affect their objectivity at all (!). I considered it. I liked that first CD, and listen to it occasionally; I didn't really like the second that followed it (cleverly named Women of Destiny, Volume 2). I gave serious thought to ordering this new one. Then I threw the catalog away, quickly. And gave serious thought to rewarding myself with chocolate.

Mitered Crosses Blanket. I follow the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog. Shortly after the earthquake & tsunami hit Japan, Kay published a pattern for a mitered crosses blanket (see this blog entry). All proceeds for this $5 pattern will go to Mercy Corps. In 2011, these donations will be designated for Japan earthquake/tsunami relief, and thereafter to support Mercy Corps’ relief work. Impressive note: As of April 6, they've sent $9000 to Mercy Corp for Japan relief.

Ann (the other half of the Mason-Dixon knitters) offered to give away a package of yarn to some lucky winner; she'll be drawing a name from the pool of knitters who've started their blankets. I read this, and immediately logged on to my Ravelry account, considered my yarn stash, and came up with several possibilities that would allow me to start knitting & qualify for the drawing (I'd still need to buy more yarn, in order to actually finish the blanket). Then I took a moment to think. Don't I already have several projects on the needles? Don't I already have a list of future projects, and yarn on hand for them? Can't this gorgeous blanket just take its turn in the queue?  Besides... if I plan a little, decide on the yarn and colors I really want to use, and drop a few hints to the right husband (that would be Jim), I might have some help in acquiring the perfect, "just right" yarn, instead of settling for repurposed yarn.

Chocolate. Wait - I'm supposed to use restraint when eating chocolate?!?  Okay, no progress whatsoever in this category...

Bonnie & I show little or no restraint when it comes to sharing pics from our noon-time walks. In fact, I think Bonnie is finally getting used to the camera: Today, when I took a picture, Bonnie actually stepped forward to sniff the camera, instead of running away!

First, more signs of spring:

Spring skies
Spring buds (Cornelian Cherries?)
More spring buds
And some signs of Bonnie!

 Bonnie checks out this tree everytime we see it. There is never anything (or anyone) inside - although it could easily hide a small critter. (I think Bonnie could actually fit in there.)
What's that?!?
On the scent of something...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Conference Weekend

Yikes - this turned out to be a rather long post - sorry about that!

Twice a year, instead of our normal church meetings, our church has "general conference." I love conference weekend! It's the one time that all we need to do is "show up" for church - and with the sessions available on our DISH network, we can show up in our living room. So we keep the weekend free, and relax, and enjoy conference. (I say we just "show up" somewhat tongue-in-cheek; as my brother points out, we do need to bring something to conference, in our attitude and personal preparation, or we don't get much out of it.)

And by showing up, we get to hear counsel from our prophet, and other leaders. I used to madly take notes, trying to remember everything. But these days, detailed notes aren't as important - video and audio from the sessions are already available on the church's website, the text will be online in a few days, and we'll have the conference issue of the Ensign in May. So now, I try to listen with different ears. I try to recognize the messages that seem targeted to me personally, that resonate with me, that touch my heart and say "you need this." Having watched and listened to all the sessions, I have my list, and as soon as the text is available, I'll be rereading those talks...

So, besides conference, what else have I done this weekend? Well, eight hours of watching conference, plus Friday's knit night at Stitching Memories, plus answering phones at Ministry with Community yesterday morning, meant lots of knitting! Here are my current projects - altho' these pictures are already out-of date.

The seed-stitch scarf I'm knitting for OFA - It was too wide, so I ripped it out and started over. That was a pain, but of course now that it's narrower, it will grow more quickly... :)
The Forest Canopy Shawl - I've knit lace before, but never a shawl, and the construction is so interesting. I am fascinated by the way the shawl grows outward. (I know, I'm so nerdy.) I'm also paranoid about messing up, so I'm using lifelines again, and counting incessantly...

Elijah the Elephant - I made my first Elijah because I fell in love with one that Katie had made for a mutual friend. I knit the second, and now a third, because they are such fun to knit and give away...
This morning, with no early church (a benefit of watching a broadcast that originates two time zones from here), I went for an early run. Don't read a lot into that word "run." I started the couch-to-5k program a few weeks ago. I completed weeks 1 & 2, then went back to week 1 for a couple days. Today went well, so I'll go back to week 2 with my next run. Meanwhile, I think I'm running something like 8 minutes, in one-minute stints, with lots of walking in between.

Anyway, it was a really lovely morning. Usually it's dark when I run; today I enjoyed the sunrise, and saw birds and cats - a surprising number of cats, sitting in front windows. No dogs, though! After the half-way point, as I headed west toward home, the sun behind me was up enough to just hit the tops of the trees. They were so beautiful - it looked like gold. As I got closer, I could see they still had last year's dead leaves, and the sunlight was hitting those leaves. Forgive the corny metaphor (it was probably a side-effect of watching conference), but it made me reflect how Christ's light can take what is ugly and wrong in our life, and make it beautiful.

Bonnie & I had a nice walk yesterday - cold, but sunny - and I decided we would walk on the Kal-Haven trail this morning. Interestingly, within minutes of my returning home from runnning, the sky was clouded over, the sun a thing of the past. Before long, it was raining. I decided to go ahead with our Kal-Haven plan, since it looked like this morning's rain would only get worse as they day went on, with thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon.

By the time we were on the trail, it was pouring buckets, so we only walked half as far as I'd planned. Most of the time, notwithstanding the rain, Bonnie's tail was a-wag, as she enjoyed the new and fascinating smells. By the time we got back to the car, we were both drenched. I tried to take pictures, but I was rather wet and cold, so they aren't stellar...

I think there is actually a pond at the bottom of all this - I've never noticed it before, and suspect it won't be visible once the leaves are out. If nothing else, I hope this picture conveys how dismal the weather had become!
I tried to get a picture to show how wet poor Bonnie was. She was really soaked, but didn't seem to mind. Once she was in the car, she did allow me to towel her off, so I suppose she was at least aware that she was wet!
Two more misc photos, for your amusement and pleasure:

We had friends over Thursday evening, for birthday cake. This is how one friend ate her cake - very carefully eating the cake and leaving the frosting behind. She doesn't like frosting, and I'm impressed with her ability to eat the cake and leave the frosting intact.

I confess that, as a child, I ate cake like this - but only so I could savor all the frosting at the end. Today, as an adult, I feel obligated to eat the cake and icing together - though I do try to make sure there's a final bite of mostly frosting...

Finally, a photo I took on one of our walks last week - hope that spring really is coming!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recent Reads: Dogs and Girls

I finished two books recently - one by a woman who wants to save dogs, the other by a woman who wants to save girls.

You Had Me at Woof, by Julie Klam, has a picture of the sweetest, funniest-looking Boston Terrier on its front cover - so how could I resist?

Klam begins her book by introducing Otto, her first Boston Terrier. She was single, in her thirties, and wondering if she would ever have a relationship. She certainly found a relationship with Otto, and something else as well; she wrote, "I took care of him and he took care of me. Within six months of adopting him, I grew up."

Her relationships grew to include a husband and daughter, and more dogs, as she worked with a Boston Terrier rescue group. She describes her experiences, and the dogs who passed through their lives - Hank, Moses, Dahlia, and others. Some of her stories made me laugh out loud, such as her description of The Omega Institue for Holistic Studies, where she attended a workshop to become an animal communicator. She realized that was not the path for her, reporting "I was glad I'd taken animal communication, but what became clear to me from the experience was that my favorite part of it was telling the stories." And so... she began to write.

She shares stories about puppies and babies; about owners who are shocked (shocked) to find that puppies chew things and don't come housebroken; about old dogs who still can surprise us; about dogs that her daughter dislikes and dogs that her daughter adores. She writes about our responsibility to our dogs, including deciding when it's time to put them to sleep (that chapter reminded me so much of our Homer, and how hard that decision was...).

She concludes, "From Otto, who showed me I could be in a reciprocal nurturing relationship, to Dahlia, who proved that life continues to surprise..., each dog in my life has brought me something or taught me a lesson that improved the quality of my life. I am richer in every way because of the dogs I've known."

I wanted know what was behind the program "Girls on the Run" (GOTR), so I picked up the book Girls on Track: A Parent's Guide to Inspiring Our Daughters to Achieve of Lifetime of Self-Esteem and Respect, by Molly Barker, the founder of the program.

This book is part memoir, part how-to. Barker recounts her own challenges and struggles, which eventually led to her starting a small program, with thirteen girls. She wanted to help young girls escape the "Girl Box" that society has created - to escape "the negative stereotypes and messages they get through the media, culturally, and socially." Thus was GOTR born.

Barker explains
Girls on the Run... is an experiential learning program that combines training girls in grades three to eight for a 3.1-mile running event with games and life lessons that assist in their physical, emotional, mental, social, and  spiritual development. Our mission? To educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. We address the individual girl's identity and personal connections with others, as well as her potential feeling of powerlessness within herself and her community. Participants in Girls on the Run explore the importance of being physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. They examine their own core values and uniqueness. And they also examine body-image issues, sterotyping, and discriminatory behaviors, as well as the importance of maintaining a realistic and healthy view of themselves. Girls take from the program a better understanding of how to process the cultural and social messages they receive through media and other institutions. And they see a stronger place for themselves within their community.

The book includes a chapter that presents lessons and activities that parents and girls can do together, based in part on the work Barker has done with GOTR. The lessons range from "Getting to Know Each Other" and "Making Promises to Each Other," to "Being Physically Healthy" and "Being Emotionally Healthy." They address maintaining balance; avoiding eating disorders; listening skills; gossip; positive attitudes; standing up for yourself; learning to say you're sorry; and other topics - similar to the lessons Barker describes for GOTR.

I'm sure parents would be most interested in those lessons. I found more interesting the insights Barker offered through her own story. One idea in particular caught my attention. She was discussing a particular idea, which she recapped as "we behave in certain ways as the result of two very powerful motives: to be loved and to feel worthwhile." While speaking one day, she inadvertently switched the verbs, so that the phrase became "to feel love and be worthwhile." This is such an interesting change in perspective. We have no control over whether or not we are loved, but we can control whether or not we feel love for others. Again, being worthwhile implies some action on our part, to match our behavior with our inherent, God-given worth.

Anyway... I think the GOTR program has great value, but at the same time, I hope that all of us make an effort to reach out to the girls around us, and not rely on the Molly Barkers and the GOTR coaches of the world to teach girls to respect themselves and to live healthy lives.