Beautifully Quirky Words We Can’t Say In English

Photo courtesy of / iDJ Photography
Photo courtesy of / iDJ Photography

I am a word connoisseur, I collect them, relish them and use them. I try to be precise and descriptive and above all, to tell the truth with them. Some of my favorite include: melancholy, sneakers and the newly remembered, disinclination. Here are some non-English words that make me wish I knew more than one language:

Mangata (Swedish): The road-like reflection of the moon in the water

Mangata (Swedish): The road-like reflection of the moon in the waterElla Frances Sanders
Perhaps people don’t notice these glimmering, lyrical moments enough anymore, but the way the moon reflects and leaps across the black water of the ocean at night is surely a sight to behold.

Akihi (Hawaiian): Listening to directions and then walking off and promptly forgetting them

Akihi (Hawaiian): Listening to directions and then walking off and promptly forgetting themElla Frances Sanders
When they explained how to get there, their directions all made perfect sense, €”you nodded and looked back with clear understanding. Then you parted ways, and now you can’t remember whether to take a left or a right.

Commuovere (Italian): To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually related to a story that moved you to tears

Commuovere (Italian): To be moved in a heartwarming way, usually related to a story that moved you to tearsElla Frances Sanders
Maybe you had a single tear rolling down your cheek, maybe you were crying for days afterward. Touching and powerful stories hit you in the most inexplicable, unexpected, and undeniably human ways.

Komorebi (Japanese): The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees

Komorebi (Japanese): The sunlight that filters through the leaves of the treesElla Frances Sanders
It may be temporarily blinding, but it’s most definitely beautiful. There is something wonderfully evocative and uniquely magical about sunlight filtered through green foliage.

Glas wen (Welsh): A “blue smile,” one that is sarcastic or mocking

Glas wen (Welsh): A "blue smile," one that is sarcastic or mockingElla Frances Sanders
Those sarcastic smiles are not so easy to escape. They make you squirm a little and leave you wishing that you could just slip away without having to return an awkward half-smile.

Kilig (Tagalog): The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes place

Kilig (Tagalog): The feeling of butterflies in your stomach, usually when something romantic or cute takes placeElla Frances Sanders
You know exactly what this is. Once it’s taken hold, there’s no stopping that can’t-think-straight, smiling-for-no-reason, spine-tingling feeling that starts somewhere deep inside the walls of your stomach.

Luftmensch (Yiddish): Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer; literally means “air person”

Luftmensch (Yiddish): Refers to someone who is a bit of a dreamer; literally means "air person"Ella Frances Sanders
Your head is in the clouds and you aren’t coming down anytime soon. You’re living in a dream world, €”the 9-to-5 has no place here and paperwork doesn’t exist at this attitude. So it’s out with reality and in with the impractical.

Tretar (Swedish): A second refill of coffee, or a “threefill”

Tretar (Swedish): A second refill of coffee, or a "threefill"Ella Frances Sanders
Whether you read this and think, “Only three cups?” or you don’t understand how it’s possible to stomach even one cup of coffee, let alone three, you have to admit that this is a very logical and efficient word.

Tsundoku (Japanese): Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books

Tsundoku (Japanese): Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread booksElla Frances Sanders
The tsundoku scale can range from just one unread book to a serious hoard, so you are most likely guilty of it. As intellectual as you may look tripping over an unread copy of Great Expectations on your way to the front door, those pages probably deserve to see the daylight.

Lost in Translation

Lost in TranslationElla Frances Sanders
The charming book Lost in Translation shows you the poetry and beauty of the world’s languages, with illustrated definitions of more than 50 words that do not have direct English translations.

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Another epic obituary! I am much more boring than this, but this inspires me to become a happier, exuberant woman. Watch out kids!

Richard (Rick) Rice (59) walked with God Saturday August 15th, 2015. Rick died from complications resulting from being stubborn, refusing to go to the doctor, and raising hell for nearly six decades. A pulmonary embolism also played a minor role in his demise.

Rick was born and raised in Yakima, WA and spent over 40 years here in the valley before moving to Cincinnati, OH, Bakersfield, CA and eventually settling in Edgerton, WI.

Rick was widely recognized as the leader in his industry but his MOST cherished accomplishment was by far his three daughters, his “girls” Jeni Rice of Yakima, Diedre Twitty of Stanwood, and Shayla Cox of Renton. His girls were his whole world.

Rick never let an opportunity to laugh slip by. His witty humor greased his way through many a sticky situation. Oh the stories he had to tell! He orchestrated a truly legendary life. Never a dull moment with that man. Always dreaming. Dreaming of the future, dreaming of his next project, the wheels in his visionary mind never came to a stop. From his trips through the Amazon jungles searching for new super fruits to his endless lifetime of shenanigans – well everywhere he went. He lived his life to the fullest and he did it HIS way. With style and class baby!

Rick had IT. He exuded charisma, charm and style. Women noticed. Rick was married to Tea Rose (Rice) in 1977 and spent the next 25 years in a whirlwind love affair.

He was an avid competitor, earning a Golden Glove in boxing, black belt karate instructor for the police departments, received a wrestling scholarship to South West Oregon Community College and spent over 30+ years playing basketball at the YMCA. He was known by “Coach” Rice to some as he started his own youth wrestling team at Washington Middle School in the late 90’s and took his team to state.

His generous spirit knew no bounds.

Rick was survived in death by his three daughters, Jeni, Diedre, and Shayla, current wife Lynn Rice of Edgerton, WI, five grandchildren, brother Jerry Rice of El Segundo, CA, and sister Betty Rosencranz of Green Valley, AZ. Rick is reunited with his parents Sidney and Ella along with his bother Jim.

In lieu of flowers, Rick would be honored if you would do the unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for someone else today in his name.

There will be no viewing since his family refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.

Services will be held Saturday at August 29th at the Seasons Performance hall at 2 pm; he would be delighted if you come and share a story. A celebration of his life will follow.

Rick would like you to remember him in all his glory, drinking Grey Goose, laughing and telling lies. His larger-than-life persona and trademark jack-assery will not be forgotten.


Life Rules For Dudes

Photo courtesy of Goehring
Photo courtesy of Goehring

Stumbled across this list from an old high school year book. These words of wisdom were written by a retiring teacher, in a section of the year book dedicated to life rules. Pretty classy advice.

1.) There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.

2.) Never cancel dinner plans by text message.

3.) Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

4.) If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.

5.) Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.

6.) When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

7.) Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of HORSE.

8.) Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

9.) Don’t dumb it down.

10.) You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

11.) If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

12.) Never park in front of a bar.

13.) Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.

14.) Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first girlfriend.

15.) Hold your heroes to a high standard.

16.) A suntan is earned, not bought.

17.) Never lie to your doctor.

18.) All guns are loaded.

19.) Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.

20.) The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

21.) Take a vacation from your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.

22.) Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

23.) A handshake beats an autograph.

24.) Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

25.) If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.

26.) If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

27.) Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.

28.) Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.

29.) Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.

30.) When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.

31.) Eat lunch with the new kids.

32.) When traveling, keep your wits about you.

33.) It’s never too late for an apology.

34.) Don’t pose with booze.

35.) If you have the right of way, take it.

36.) You don’t get to choose your own nickname.

37.) When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

38.) Never push someone off a dock.

39.) Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

40.) It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.

41.) Don’t make a scene.

42.) When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

43.) Know when to ignore the camera.

44.) Never gloat.

45.) Invest in good luggage.

46.) Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.

47.) When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

48.) Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.

49.) Give credit. Take blame.

50.) Suck it up every now and again.

51.) Never be the last one in the pool.

52.) Don’t stare.

53.) Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.

54.) Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.

55.) If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

56.) Admit it when you’re wrong.

57.) If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.

58.) Look people in the eye when you thank them.

59.) Thank the bus driver.

60.) Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

61.) Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

62.) Know at least one good joke.

63.) Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.

64.) Know how to cook one good meal.

65.) Learn to drive a stick shift.

66.) Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.

67.) It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

68.) Dance with your mother/father.

69.) Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.

70.) Always thank the host.

71.) If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

72.) Know the size of your girlfriend’s clothes.

73.) There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.

74.) Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

75.) Keep your word.

76.) In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.

77.) Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.

78.) Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.

79.) Don’t be the talker in a movie.

80.) The opposite sex likes people who shower.

81.) You are what you do, not what you say.

82.) Learn to change a tire.

83.) Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.

84.) An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.

85.) Don’t litter.

86.) If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.

87.) You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.

88.) Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.

89.) Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

90.) Make the little things count.

91.) Always dress well for work.

92.) Tip well.

93.) You’re never too old to need your mom.

94.) Always hold the door open for a lady.

95.) Know the words to your national anthem.

96.) Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.

97.) Smile at strangers.

98.) Make goals.

99.) Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.

100.) If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

The Art of Being On Time

Photo courtesy of Von Canon
Photo courtesy of Von Canon

My grandfather was a stickler about being on time. Once when visiting them for the summer we all woke up late on a Sunday morning and everyone was frantically trying to get ready for church. We were just passing the point of no return – the point at which we couldn’t possibly be on time – when my grandfather made the announcement that he was not going to church if we were late.

My father shooed us into the waiting car in spite of all the hair brushing that still needed to be done and we tore out of the driveway behind my grandfathers car. That made an impression on me and his example helped make showing up on time a priority.

When our first child was born I had to re-adjust everything to keep timeliness as an important part of my life with kids. And then adjust again and again and again. If I hadn’t already decided that being on time was important it would have been easy to let it slip.

Now, I am not holding this up as the most important of the virtues, but I do think that showing up on time is a politeness to others. And it has to be a priority to happen.

Greg Savage, posted this no-holds-barred post about the importance of showing up on time. It may offend some, but take a breath and think about it for a minute. Think about it as a way to be thoughtful of others.

Here goes!

This post may offend some readers. But only because it’s going to cut close to the bone for many.

I don’t care if I sound old-fashioned, because actually it’s nothing to do with ‘fashion’ or ‘generation’. It’s got everything to do with basic good manners and respect for other people.

So here goes… How did it get to be “OK” for people to be late for everything?

Because as far as I am concerned, it’s not OK.

In recent years it seems that a meeting set to start at 9 am, for some people means in the general vicinity of any time which starts with the numeral ‘9’. Like 9.30 for example.

People drift in at 9.10 or 9.20, or even later. And they smile warmly at the waiting group, as they unwrap their bacon sandwich, apparently totally unconcerned that others have been there since five to nine, prepared and ready to start.

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish pratt who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice?

And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration.

And often these ‘latecomers’ are people who have requested the meeting in the first place, are asking for your help, or are selling something. Fat chance, mate!

And it’s not only business.

Why do people, invited for a dinner party at 7.30, think its cool to arrive at 8.30? It’s rude. It’s inconsiderate. And it’s selfish, as I witnessed in a coffee shop near my home one weekend. Three “ladies who lunch” (a species not confined to, but heavily represented on, the lower North Shore of Sydney) were chatting loudly at the table next to me. One inquired what time the ‘drinks do’ was that night. The reply for all the world to hear was ‘Oh 7.30, but we won’t get there till 9 because by then it will have warmed up and all the interesting people will have arrived’. Nice. Imagine if everyone took that view. Cocktail parties would start at 3 am eventually.

Or a dinner at a restaurant where I was meeting two other couples. My wife was away, so I was flying solo. I arrived at two minutes to eight for an eight o’clock booking. At 8.20, I was into my second glass of Pinot and at half-past I got a text saying ‘on the way’. We finally were all seated at 8.45. There were not even attempted excuses from either of the two couples, who seemed oblivious to the fact I might actually have got there at the agreed time. Meanwhile I had put a huge dent in the bottle of Pinot, and was ready to go home.

And it is not that we lead ‘busy lives’. That’s a given, we all do, and it’s a cop out to use that as an excuse. It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late.


You are rude. And inconsiderate.

And I act on it, too. My dentist kept me waiting 50 minutes not long ago. She has done it for years and years. But enough! I walked out, past a literally open-mouthed receptionist who had never seen a patient act on their frustration, only to get a frantic call from the dentist herself as I got into my car.

Sure she was “busy”, another patient took longer than she expected, blah blah.

But hold on, I am busy too! I would not keep her waiting 45 minutes if she came to see me as a candidate. And yet I am HER customer. I told her I have been coming to you for 15 years but don’t take me for granted. See fewer patients in a day if you have to, but see me on time or close to it. She has never kept me waiting again.

Me? Am I ever late? Sure, sometimes. That’s inevitable even with the best intentions. But I never plan to be late. I never ‘let time slide’ because my stuff is more important than yours.

I am not talking about the odd occasion of lateness. I am talking about people who are routinely late. In fact, never on time. You know who I am talking about!

And certainly I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count among my real friends.

It’s that important.

Can Broken Be Better Than Whole?


Photo courtesy of Kamerman
Photo courtesy of Kamerman

I bought my best dishes at an estate sale, they are creamy and simple and old and the tall stack of dinner plates matched my goal of someday having a large family all gathered around our table.  As the years have passed it is obvious that a few of these dishes have been broken and repaired.  The glue used to fix the plates wasn’t noticeable in the early years but has turned a darker color over time and now there are small seams of glue running through a few of the dishes.  The cracks bothered me until I read about a practice of repair that originated over a thousand years ago in Japan.  It is called Kintsugi.

Photo courtesy of gold two
Photo courtesy of gold two

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken or chipped pottery and ceramics by repairing each crack and filling the voids with a resin containing gold, silver or platinum dust. Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally accentuated by the precious metals.  The break is illuminated!  It is an art that takes a broken object and gives it new life, some would say that the repair lifts it into the sublime.

Photo courtesy of gold
Photo courtesy of gold

When someone mended my china, they tried to repair it as seamlessly as possible, hoping that the dish would look like it had never been broken. But the art of Kintsugi strives to do the exact opposite. It acknowledges the brokenness and actually ends up highlighting the break. Through the gold veins, the vessel regains its original purpose but in a more beautiful way, more beautiful than the potter’s original idea or intention.

So, the next time you feel regret over mistakes you or others have made, remember these broken vessels. The imperfections to which all humans are prone, are made clearer through the cracks, the chips, and the breaks which, in the hands of an artist, become more beautiful than before they were broken.

Photo courtesy of gold three
Photo courtesy of gold three

Please don’t be discouraged by your own imperfections and, just as importantly, don’t worry about the flaws that are so visible in others placed about you.  Instead, give yourself, symbolized by the broken vessel, into the hands of God who created you and included every imperfection.

Hiding the broken cup, throwing it away or trying to mend it on our own will never bring into being the beauty that God can forge.  Realize that He uses our weaknesses as the raw materials in creating a work of art!

Let our Savior mend the broken you and create a receptacle of beauty and practicality.


A Workout for the Brain

Photo courtesy of Account
Photo courtesy of Account

It has been my experience that the best solutions for problems tend to be simple. Simple equates to elegant, workable and effective. Not always, but generally. That said, when I read this article about depression and sadness it struck a cord within me and I knew I had to share it. Can something this simple work? I have no doubt.

I have been treating patients for almost 15 years, and one of the most successful exercises I use is so simple I am still struck by how effective it is.

The difficult part of this therapy is not doing the activity. It is making yourself believe that enough to put forth the effort to do it.

Often when I give this assignment to patients, they come back for two or three weeks afterward, still not having tried it. It seems too simple.  But once they are convinced of the benefits of shifting their attention and thinking and understand how thoughts relate to brain function, they are more willing to try this simple bedtime ritual.

So what is the exercise?

  • Keep a pad of paper next to your bed and every night before you go to sleep, write down three things you liked about yourself that day.
  • In the morning, read the list before you get out of bed.
  • Do this everyday for 30 days.

These don’t have to be big things, they can be simple, such as I like that I held the door for my co-worker, or I like that I didn’t lose my temper in traffic today, or I like that I am making the effort to try this exercise even if I’m not sure it will work.

For someone who is depressed, this activity feels like a lot of effort. Why?  Essentially, people with depression generally spend a good deal of time thinking about what they don’t like about themselves—and they have a hard time stopping.

The more time you spend thinking about something, the stronger it becomes in your mental space—and the easier it becomes to access. The more you think of something, the more it primes your brain to keep looking for similar things in your environment, it actually causes you to distort information in a way that matches up with your dominant thoughts.

Someone with depression who goes to a party might get ten compliments, but if one of the comments mentions his ‘interesting’ shirt it can cause the patient to fixate on the ambiguous comment and turn it into a stream of thinking like this: I wonder what was wrong with my shirt, I probably looked silly in it, I bet they all thought I looked like an idiot. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I ever get anything right? This is so humiliating. The rest of the compliments have long been forgotten.

So how does the exercise help?

This simple exercise builds the strength to disengage from negative thoughts. It helps you redirect attention to positive aspects of yourself; and retrains what your brain pays attention to.

As you do this, you not only start to become aware of more of your positive attributes, they become more available to you as you interpret events around you. Compliments become something you can hear and accept because they are more consistent with how you think of yourself. You start to interpret events in a less critical way. As you continue identifying what you like about yourself it will elevate your sense of self-worth and eventually, change how you see those around you as well.

But remember: Just as there is no physical benefit from understanding how to use a treadmill, there is no benefit in understanding how the exercise works. The benefit comes from actually doing the work.

Her Son Went to Harvard and Duke and Penn

Photo courtesy of Bruff
Photo courtesy of Bruff

This is so precious! No one asked us if we wanted to donate organs when our son died, and I don’t know how I would have felt about it then. But after reading this I know how I feel now. Isn’t it amazing how much we can learn from each other? Thank you Sarah.

When she found out early in her pregnancy that one of her identical twins would die at birth, Sarah Gray began a five-year journey that culminated last week in Philadelphia.

She had to carry the sick baby to term in order to protect his healthy twin. And she also looked into organ and tissue donation.

 “Instead of thinking of our son as a victim,” she said, “I started thinking of him as a contributor to research, to science.”

On March 23, 2010, Thomas and Callum Gray were born at Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. Callum, perfect, was five pounds, 10 ounces. Thomas, four pounds, was born without part of his brain. His mother nursed him, diapered him, cradled him.

He died after six days – five years ago on Sunday. Within hours of Thomas’ death, his eyes and liver were recovered and sent – along with umbilical cord blood from him and his brother – to researchers.

But that wasn’t the end of it for Sarah Gray.

She often wondered – what became of his eyes, his blood, his liver?

The Grays had received a thank-you letter from the Washington regional transplant organization, telling them their son’s corneas had been sent to the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, and his liver and the cord blood to Duke University in North Carolina.

Two years later, on a business trip to Boston, Sarah Gray called the eye institute, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

“I donated my son’s eyes to your lab,” she said on the phone. “Can I come by for a tour?”

The receptionist said she had never had such a request. “I’m not sure who to transfer you to,” she said, “but don’t hang up!”

The next day, Gray met James Zieske, the institute’s senior scientist, who told her “infant eyes are worth their weight in gold,” because, being so young, they have great regenerative properties. Thomas’ corneas were used in a study that could one day help cure corneal blindness.

Thirteen more studies had cited that study. Gray felt a new emotion: pride.

Before leaving, she bought a Harvard T-shirt for Callum, and decided she was going to go with the whole family to North Carolina, where Thomas’ liver and the cord blood had been sent.

Zieske also wrote her: “Your visit helped to remind me that all the eyes we receive are an incredibly generous gift from someone who loved and cared about the person who provided the eyes. I thank you for reminding me of this.”

A few months later in 2012, the Grays went to the Duke Center for Human Genetics in Durham, N.C., where even though the twins were identical, scientists found epigenetic differences in their cord blood, research that could one day help prevent Thomas’ fatal defect, anencephaly.

Sarah Gray bought Callum a Duke T-shirt.

The couple then drove down to the road to visit Cytonet, a biotech company that had used their baby’s liver in a trial to determine the best temperature to freeze liver tissue.

Already in the nonprofit public relations field, Sarah Gray became director of marketing for the American Association of Tissue Banks.

Her mantra has become donate, donate, donate, and not just for transplant, but also for research. Even if nobody asks you – doctors are often uncomfortable when a child is dying – bring it up yourself, she says.

At a conference last summer, by coincidence, Gray learned that the Old Dominion Eye Bank in North Chesterfield, Va., had shipped Thomas’ retinas to Philadelphia.

She couldn’t believe she’d never known this. She immediately wrote to the researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who used the donation in her efforts to cure retinoblastoma, the most common form of eye cancer in children.

Two days later, Gray got a reply from Arupa Ganguly, who runs the lab and is a genetics professor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“It is almost impossible to obtain normal retina from a child,” Ganguly wrote. “The sample from Thomas is extremely precious for us.”

Ganguly sent Callum a Penn T-shirt.

They arranged to meet last Monday.

First, Sarah, Ross, and Callum Gray went to the National Disease Research Interchange in Center City, which Sarah Gray calls “the of science.” The interchange connects hospitals that supply organs and tissue with researchers who request it.

“This seems to have brought you a lot of peace and joy,” Bill Leinweber, the interchange’s president and CEO, told Sarah. “You’ve been such a strong advocate for research and such an eloquent spokesperson for the value of research.”

After a visit there, the Gray family went to Penn to meet Ganguly and tour her lab.

Sarah Gray saw the marbled composition book in which the receipt of retinas was logged on March 30, 2010, the 360th specimen to be received. They became “RES 360,” short for Research 360.

“Is this the log book?” she asked. “Oh, my gosh.”

Gray ran her index finger over the cursive of Jennifer Yutz, the lab manager who recorded the entry.

“Ross, look at this! Med 360!”

Her husband took a look. Callum, then 4, hugged an inflatable Godzilla as tall as he is, a gift from Ganguly, bouncing it on the lab floor.

“Wow,” Sarah Gray continued. “Can I Xerox this?”

“We have a copy for you,” Ganguly said.

Penn also gave the Grays a copy of the Fed Ex packing slip confirming arrival, which Sarah Gray said she would “treasure like a war medal.”

Thomas’ retina tissue is so rare, so precious, Ganguly and her team are still saving some of it for future research. Ganguly’s staff led Sarah Gray into the hallway, where a refrigerator, innocuous and ordinary, stood across from student lockers. Yutz unlocked it.

Inside were hundreds of 1.5 milliliter tubes – smaller than cigarette filters.

Yutz pointed to two.

“There it is,” Yutz said.

“Oh my gosh!” Gray said. She couldn’t touch them. The tubes were frozen at minus-80 degrees centigrade (minus-112 Fahrenheit).

“It’s the RNA isolated from the retina tissue,” Yutz said.

Call it what you will, that was a piece of Thomas Gray, her son.

Ross Gray has long supported his wife’s journey.

“It helped her get over the loss,” he said. “It was part of the healing process, seeing that there’s still research going on five years after. His life was worthwhile. He’s brought a lot of good to the world.”

“The way I see it,” Sarah Gray said, “our son got into Harvard, Duke, and Penn. He has a job. He is relevant to the world. I only hope my life can be as relevant.”

When You Don’t Know What To Say


Emily McDowell was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age the tender age of 24. She spent nine months fighting it with chemo and radiation, her cancer is now in remission.

“The most difficult part of my illness wasn’t losing my hair, or being called ‘sir’ by a Starbucks barista, or even the sickness from chemo,” McDowell writes. “It was the loneliness and isolation I felt when many of my close friends and family members disappeared because they didn’t know what to say, or said the absolute wrong thing without realizing it.”

The emotional impact of the experience simmered and finally inspired her to design a series of Empathy Cards—flat out blunt cards that say the everything she wished someone would have said when she was so sick.


She and I both hope that her cards will provide “better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering” between patients and friends and loved ones suffering illness of any kind. They are earnest and funny, without a single word of false cheer.


‘Get well soon’ cards can feel like a slap in the face when you seriously might not get well at all, and cards that contain black humor really aren’t funny when you are walking the lonely path of illness.


As she was designing these empathy cards, her goal was to help people connect through truth and insight. She wants the recipients of the cards to feel seen, understood and loved.


It is hard to know what to say to someone who is in anguish, and although I should know better I still find myself saying stupid, thoughtless things and regretting it later. How I love these cards, these sentiments! When I am suffering, please honor my distress with a card expressing your love and understanding. And don’t forget the hug….you can find the cards by Emily McDowell here.



The Etiquette of a Funeral Procession

Photo courtesy of NewYork
Photo courtesy of NewYork

I grew up in Maryland, which, although they fought for the North in the Civil War, was in no way, shape or form a Northern state. There are many Southern customs I have embraced regarding death and funerals, but I understand that not everyone was taught how to act during times of grief. One of these little understood traditions is the funeral procession.

For some reason a funeral brings out the best in Southerners. It showcases their commitment to family, no matter how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other, and it demonstrates their loyalty to friends when there is a need for sympathy and kindness. Although it is tough to experience the loss of a loved one, it is the support of family and friends left behind that makes it just a little easier to bear.

Perhaps the most famous historical story involving Southern funeral etiquette involves a Civil War General Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston had surrendered to General Sherman at the end of the war and had been so impressed with Sherman’s magnanimity that he would not allow an unkind thing to be said about his former enemy for the rest of his life.

When Sherman died, Johnston was asked to be a pallbearer in the General’s funeral. As is common for a public figure, Sherman’s funeral procession proceeded through the streets of New York City. Johnston walked along the casket with his hat in his hand. The freezing temperatures and rain caused fellow mourners to advise Johnston to wear his hat. Johnston replied, “If I were in his place and he standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” He ended up coming down with pneumonia and died several weeks later.

Johnson’s refusal to wear his hat was a symbol of his deep respect for his friend and mere convenience was not a good enough reason to put his hat on during the funeral procession.

Pulling your car over to the side of the road when you see a funeral procession is a sign of respect. You can tell who was brought up in the South when a funeral procession passes by, those raised in the south pull their car over to the side of the road. Some get out and stand respectfully as the cars pass.

Someday, we’ll all be a part of a funeral procession. Here is what you should know about that event.

After the funeral, everyone will get in their cars and proceed as a group to the cemetery. The cars will follow behind the hearse. Turn on your headlights and emergency blinkers and closely follow the car in front of you. The procession will drive slower than the speed limit. If the procession starts through a light while it’s green and it turns red by the time you get to it, keep on going. State laws allow funeral processions to drive through red lights and stop signs.

As a normal driver, when you come upon a funeral procession, do your best to let them pass and stay together. Do not try to cut into the procession. If safe, pull to the side of the road and let the line keep going. In the old days, men got out of their cars and doffed their hats while the procession passed. That is probably too dangerous on our modern roads, but it is a nice thought.

Never race to get in front of a procession, or break into the line of cars to make a turn. Cars in the procession usually have their lights on and a small sign in the front window indicating they are traveling together.

It is easy to understand how these traditions never took hold in large cities or in the North, there are just too many cars and too little space in New York, for instance, for people to pull over to the side of the road every time a funeral procession passes by. No matter where we live, or how we were raised, we can show our respect for those traveling to the cemetery in a funeral procession. Like the general, we can offer our good manners as a sign of our respect for those who are grieving a death.

Putting Our Burdens Down

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Photo courtesy of

My boys grin at each other when I tell them it is time to put the baby down. The thought of me as an assassin is a radical shift in perspective for them and they love it. What if I were to convince you that it is time to put your burdens down? That it is time to rest?

I can hear you say, ‘I can’t do that!’ How would anything ever get done? Who will carry them if I just abandon them? Just take a deep breath and listen for a minute while I tell you a story.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….well not really, instead will you imagine a professor pacing around a classroom, lets say it is an amphitheater. The lights are dimmed. While she is speaking to her students she approaches a table in the center of the floor picks up a glass of water and raises it towards the students.

Everyone expects to be asked the ‘half empty or half full’ question. Instead, she inquires: ‘How heavy is this glass of water?’

Students call out answers and when she replies she tells them that the absolute weight doesn’t matter.

Instead, it depends on how long you hold it. If you were to hold it for a minute, it would not be a problem. If you held it for an hour, your arm would ache. For a day and your arm would feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes.

Stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to hurt. If you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything.

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. Just put the glass down!

Alright, you say, but how do I put it down?

The secret is to realize that your greatest weapon against stress and anxiety is the ability we have to choose. We choose what we will think, we choose one thought over another. We can lay our burdens on the Lord, give our worries and anxieties to Him, and rest in the peace of God.

If we will do this, choose our thoughts carefully and give our worries to God, we will be more able to deal with the vicissitudes and trials of life. For we will not feel alone.

Should we make my children’s day and put this baby down?

Have I Really Lived?

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Photo courtesy of

There are times that I try to remember heaven. I know I lived with God the Father before my birth and it seems strange that I have no glimmer of memory, nothing but a single-minded faith that this is true.

Our body is a glorious creation and though sometimes it seems that my body is me, it is important to remember that it is the spirit that gives our body life. We are really made of spirit with a covering of a body! Until the resurrection our body and spirit are only joined temporarily.

We are here to learn to subject the mortal, physical desires of our body to the more refined understanding of the spirit. To learn to listen to the best part of ourselves.

 Since my birth I have taken 272,981,505 breaths.

My heart has beat 1,810,311,224 times.

My fingernails have grown about 54 inches.

My hair has grown about 30 feet.

I have had 93000 dreams!

I have blinked approximately 480000000000.

I have smiled about 1050000 times.

It is obvious that I am not the same person I was at birth. The art of creation is going on to this day.

I have pledged to use my hands to help others.

My tongue to speak the truth and words of kindness.

My heart to love.

My mind to think pure and virtuous thoughts.

My feet to walk the paths of righteousness.

One this day of continued creation, may we grow closer to God and all that makes us a true child of the light.

Perfectionism is the Enemy

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Photo courtesy of train

Perfectionism is the enemy, the voice of your oppressor, the whisper of your fear.

Perfectionism is your enemy! It will keep you small and afraid, it is an obstacle that comes between you and true greatness.

Perfectionism is a rigid, putrid form of idealism. Conceived in hopelessness and born into a nonsensical world.

Perfectionism is a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.

Perfectionism is exhausting and futile, and it doesn’t produce even the smallest glimmer of happiness.

The delight of hard work, I get. The joy of a job well done, I have experienced. The satisfaction of completing a task, I understand. The allure of perfectionism, I have banned.

We are all creative, for we are all children of God who is the ultimate creator and that trait is within us. Sometimes it is deeply buried but it is there.

So, we need to quit wiping down our counter-tops and get out the mixer and make cookies. We need to turn up our music, sit at the computer and write that crappy first draft. We need to get out the paints and ignore the dust. We need to sit at the piano and sing to our husband. We need to consider letting our little Einstein write code on the bedroom wall. We need to value creation more than we value sterile cleanliness.

I refuse to clean alone anymore and do you know that my kids and I can clean up a weekends worth of clutter and grime in 20 minutes? The power of cooperation and delegation combined with the incentive of dessert or a movie work wonders on all of us.

I used to do it all myself and I would wear myself out just keeping up. Creation is fueled by happiness, by relaxation and love. When you are empty, that is when you get stuck or blocked.

I think that men get this more quickly than women, generally. Or maybe we have just pinned too many perfect things to be content with real life.

Let’s get off the perfectionism train already!

What we need are a few more messes, a bit more chaos, a whole lot more creation. And when you come to my house, help me stop apologizing for the mess by asking me how my book is coming along! I will love you forever if you give me that gift.

Because of Him

Photo courtesy of Hayes
Photo courtesy of Hayes

When you are putting together the ubiquitous ‘New Year’s resolutions list’, make sure you watch this first. Life is all about second chances, because there are none of us that can figure out the mystery of life on our own.

We come here not remembering who we are, why we are here, where we came from, we forgot it all and not knowing where we are going we are feeling our way blind through this life. All of us, except Christ.

He came to show us the way, to redeem us from sin and sorrow, to welcome us home when we finally make it back.

To ‘deem’ is to hold it in regard, to consider it of value, so to ‘redeem’ is to put that thing, to put us, back in a place of value or to regard the redeemed to be of worth again.

The Lord came here to redeem us and I know I am not alone when I send out an eternal ‘thank you’ to Him.

The Lord, the Almighty God, the Prince of Peace has looked upon a lowly sinner named Ann and instead of seeing all my many imperfections and turning away, has steadfastly stayed by my side as together we have fashioned me into a woman I don’t mind hanging out with.

Because of Him, death has no sting. Because of Him, I can look at this earthly experience with hope and not despair.  Because of Him, I look forward to walking back in God’s presence someday.

If you have already made a commitment to goals for this coming year, I would watch this video with your list in hand and a pencil at the ready.

If you haven’t given any thought to making any New Year’s Resolutions, I would watch this video with a paper and a pencil as well.

This is the year to become more like Christ, in thought, word and deed. To become a partner with Him in the redeeming process and hastening the work of salvation.

Because of Him….


Glass Beach: Reclaimed By God

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Photo courtesy of

California in the 1940’s was a very different place than now in many ways, all up and down the coast small towns regularly dumped their trash over cliffs and onto the beach. Derelict cars were pushed over the cliffs along with normal household trash. Some dumps grew to thirty feet deep and when it got piled too high they would burn it in an effort to try to keep it in control.

One such dump was in Fort Bragg. This particular dump has peculiar rock formations in the surf that caused the trash to stay on the beach. After the dump was closed the city tried, by many means, to clean up the mess but to no avail. Local residents mourned the loss of their beautiful beaches and the bad decisions of the past.

As the trash tumbled and disintegrated in the surf over the next 40 years, God has reclaimed the old cars, apothecary jars, soda bottles and other trash made of glass and now this stretch of ocean is known as the glass beach. Beautiful, collectible and rare, the glass has been tumbled and softened into a work of art.

Given time, God has turned a colossal blunder into something wondrous and rare.

It isn’t that we shouldn’t try to be what God intends us to be, we should be working hard on being obedient and good. But when we fail, even spectacularly, don’t give up hope.

God has a plan for each of us and will, with time and the buffetings of life, turn our lives into something to treasure. God never sends us away, never stops loving us and sees the potential in every one of us. No matter how lost we have gotten or how far away we feel from His love.

People from all over the earth love to visit this beach and report that the sound of the glass pebbles is like nothing else they have ever heard.

A reminder that with God, all things are possible.

Today is the day to turn your life over to God and trust in His redeeming grace.

Photo courtesy of beach
Photo courtesy of beach
Photo courtesy of beach
Photo courtesy of beach


Photo courtesy of beach
Photo courtesy of beach

What Should I Tell The Kids About Santa?

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Photo courtesy of…M

I don’t generally lie to my children but for the sake of childhood excitement and sweet dreams I fudge when they ask me if Santa is real. When our oldest kids were little I didn’t over think it at all, I was just plain excited to bring happiness and love to their lives. As the years rolled on I did wonder if we were doing the right thing. I remember reading in the scriptures this:  For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

This insight helped me realize that the way we do Santa is the key.

At our house the kids spend a lot of time making treats to give to Santa. They love to make their best cookies for him. They pick out the biggest carrots to leave for the reindeer and this year they are excited to make tiny little donuts out of Cheerios, vanilla glaze and sprinkles for the elves. They always leave Santa a note to thank him for coming and usually Santa writes a little something back to them.

At our house the stockings just mark the spot where Santa arranges the gifts and he leaves a little gift or two. A favorite candy bar or a box of the child’s favorite cereal. Once he brought them each their own box of band-aids!

It isn’t so much what he brings, just the fact that he comes to our house! There’s so little magic in our everyday lives and I believe that believing in Santa can color the Christmas season with magic for both parents and children.

At our house our children are never threatened into good behavior using Santa, he is only a symbol of love and sweetness.

At our house any list a child might send to Santa is for a sibling rather than him or her self.

At our house we try to teach our children to be appreciative and grateful.

At our house we allow the children to experience the joy of giving to others, as well as being a thankful and polite recipient.

And when it is obvious that the child has become too old to believe in Santa I tell them something like this:

Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the Christmas magic stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents, and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no, I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.


I am one that thinks a belief in Santa can be a good experience for both child and parent, if there is careful consideration of the whole experience and an emphasis on the real reason for the season, with Santa and gifts as a secondary, magic making part of the whole.

And if Santa is one of my readers, we have been extra good this year!


All I Want For Christmas is Authenticity

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Photo courtesy of

‘My daughter is a musically talented young woman. For many years I felt that this talent would not be developed unless I loomed over her at the piano and insistently supervised her practice like a Simon Legree. One day, sometime in her early teens, I realized that my attitude, probably once useful, was now visibly affecting our relationship. Torn between a fear that she would not fully develop a God-given talent and the reality of an increasingly strained relationship over that very issue, I did what I had seen my mother do when faced with a serious challenge. I sequestered myself in my secret place and poured out my soul in prayer, seeking the only wisdom that could help me keep that communication open — the kind of wisdom and help that comes from the tongues of angels. Upon arising from my knees, I knew what action I must take.

‘Because it was just three days before Christmas, I gave to Mary as a personal gift an apron from which I had conspicuously cut the apron strings. There was a tiny pocket on the apron in which I tucked a note. It read: ‘Dear Mary, I’m sorry for the conflict I have caused by acting like a federal marshal at the piano. I must have looked foolish there — just you and me and my six-shooters. Forgive me. You are becoming a young woman in your own right. I have only worried that you would not feel as fully confident and fulfilled as a woman if you left your talent unfinished. I love you. Mom.’

‘Later that day she sought me out, and in a quiet corner of our home, she said: ‘Mother, I know you want what is best for me, and I have known that all my life. But if I’m ever going to play the piano well, I’m the one who has to do the practicing, not you!’ Then she threw her arms around me and with tears in her eyes she said, ‘I’ve been wondering how to teach you that — and somehow you figured it out on your own.’ Now, by her own choice, she has gone on to even more disciplined musical development. And I am always nearby to encourage her.

‘As Mary and I reminisced about this experience a few years later, she confided in me that my willingness to say, “I’m sorry, I’ve made a mistake, please forgive me’ gave to her a great sense of self-worth because it said to her that she was worthy enough for a parental apology, that sometimes children can be right.’

This story come from a talk given by Pat Holland and you can read the full text here, I would encourage you to read it. She raised good children even while combating self-doubt and uncertainty, in spite of parenting under the influence of all those turbulent feelings.

She continues: ‘We all come into the world crying—and a little bit wobbly. For parents to take a newborn infant, who is then only a bundle of potentialities, and love and guide and develop that child until a fully functional human being emerges is the grandest miracle of science, and the greatest of all arts.

When the Lord created parents, he created something breathtakingly close to what he is. We who have borne children innately know that this is the highest of callings, the holiest of assignments—and that is why the slightest failure can cause us crippling despair.

Even with our best intentions and our most heartfelt efforts, some of us find our children not turning out the way we’d like. They are sometimes very difficult to communicate with. They might be struggling in school or emotionally distressed or openly rebellious or painfully shy. There are lots of reasons why they may still be wobbling a bit.’

If I may inject my opinion here, I would say that good parenting has little to do with technique or adhering to some or another doctrine. I have seen wonderful children emerge from homes enamored with sports as well as those who love music. Great people have been raised in large, intact families and homes presided over by single mothers. The secret, I believe, is authenticity.

It is impossible to fool a child.

They see how we look at them and they know if we really see them or if our eyes are looking at them while thinking about a million other things. They can tell if it is love that shines from our eyes or something less than that.

If we can approach parenthood with humility and a single-minded love for our kids, they will know our interest in their welfare is real. You can’t fake it. It isn’t possible.

And if you feel that your own, meager, supply of love isn’t quite enough to fill up your starving child, lean upon One whose love is endless. One whose love is as deep as the ocean and fills the immensity of space. God can fill your heart with love for your child.

And why wouldn’t He? They were His children long before He lent them to us.

Two Huge Words

What would your ‘thank you’ project look like?

How awesome would it be to gather all those who have impacted our lives in one room?

The first step is to let yourself feel gratitude for the people in your life, as imperfect as we all are. The next step is to express appreciation and love. Feeling gratitude isn’t enough, let someone know you are grateful for them.

Let your ‘thank you’ change someones life today!

Is Mercy Even Possible?

Photo courtesy of Molin
Photo courtesy of Molin

I once listened to a talk given by Boyd K. Packer called Balm of Gilead. In it he tells a profound story I have never forgotten. The story was related to him by an old friend, a man whom he knew well and trusted.

‘On one occasion, he gave me a lesson for my life from an experience in his own. Although I thought I had known him, he told me things about his life I would not have supposed.

He grew up in a little community with a desire to make something of himself. He struggled to get an education.

He married his sweetheart, and presently everything was just right. He was well employed, with a bright future. They were deeply in love, and she was expecting their first child.

The night the baby was to be born, there were complications. The only doctor was somewhere in the countryside tending to the sick.

After many hours of labor, the condition of the mother-to-be became desperate.

Finally the doctor was located. In the emergency, he acted quickly and soon had things in order. The baby was born and the crisis, it appeared, was over.

Some days later, the young mother died from the very infection that the doctor had been treating at another home that night.

John’s world was shattered. Everything was not right now; everything was all wrong. He had lost his wife. He had no way to tend both the baby and his work.

As the weeks wore on, his grief festered. “That doctor should not be allowed to practice,” he would say. “He brought that infection to my wife. If he had been careful, she would be alive today.”

He thought of little else, and in his bitterness, he became threatening. Today, no doubt, he would have been pressed by many others to file a malpractice suit. And there are lawyers who would see in his pitiable condition only one ingredient—money!

But that was another day, and one night a knock came at his door. A little girl said simply, “Daddy wants you to come over. He wants to talk to you.”

A grieving, heartbroken young man went to see his spiritual leader. This spiritual shepherd had been watching his flock and had something to say to him.

The counsel from that wise servant was simply, “John, leave it alone. Nothing you do about it will bring her back. Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.”

My friend told me then that this had been his trial—his Gethsemane. How could he leave it alone? Right was right! A terrible wrong had been committed and somebody must pay for it. It was a clear case.

But he struggled in agony to get hold of himself. And finally, he determined that whatever else the issues were, he should be obedient.

Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all.

He determined to follow the counsel of that wise spiritual leader. He would leave it alone.

Then he told me, “I was an old man before I understood! It was not until I was an old man that I could finally see a poor country doctor—overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, few instruments, struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part.

“He had come in a moment of crisis, when two lives hung in the balance, and had acted without delay.

“I was an old man,” he repeated, “before I finally understood! I would have ruined my life,” he said, “and the lives of others.”

Many times he had thanked the Lord on his knees for a wise spiritual leader who counseled simply, “John, leave it alone.”

And that is the counsel I bring again to you. If you have a festering grudge, if you are involved in an acrimonious dispute, “Behold what the scripture says ‘man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay’ (Morm. 8:20).

If you need a transfusion of spiritual strength, then just ask for it. We call that prayer. Prayer is powerful spiritual medicine. The instructions for its use are found in the scriptures.’

In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.

Let us be kind.

Let us forgive.

Let us talk peacefully with each other.

Let the love of God fill our hearts.

Let us do good unto all men.

The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that you use it shall be measured to you again.”

Mercy is possible but it is HARD. Don’t think it will be easy but as with every difficult task in our lives the Lord makes it possible. Cast your burden at His feet and someday you will see the majesty in what has been created by your willingness to be obedient.

How Do I Pray?

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Photo courtesy of

I have never been good at keeping secrets, at least happy secrets, and I am going to tell you one now…

What if I were to tell you that there is a door to reach heaven? What if I were to tell you that the lock for the door is on our side of the veil? There truly is such a door, and the key to open that door is called prayer.

I have a hundred stories I could tell you about receiving answers to prayer, about feeling that overwhelming connection with heaven and the power of God. I am going to tell you just two of them.

Growing up we were surrounded by woods and empty, rolling fields of grass, a spot of pure country right outside Washington DC. My brother John was the great backwoods guy even as a little boy. He and his big wheel went everywhere, exploring. I can vividly remember one evening as we gathered for dinner, we couldn’t find John and no one could remember seeing him for hours. He was 4 or 5 if I remember correctly.

I was the oldest of eight kids and we immediately spread out to search for him.

It was dusk. Instead of rushing down the lane I bowed my head and asked my Heavenly Father to help us find John, then I started walking and as I became convinced I knew where he was I began running. I could see right where he was, in my mind’s eye.

As I walked down through the woods, calling for him, I soon heard a little boy calling back to me and I quickly found him, still sitting on his big wheel, waiting for someone to come. I was filled with gratitude and the beginnings of a relationship with prayer.

As I have matured in my relationship with God there have been times that I have prayed, in faith, knowing that our Father could help or inspire or heal but chose to stay His hand in the matter. While this has tested my faith, ultimately, I have felt His love and trusted His wisdom.

Ten years ago my husband contracted Lyme’s disease. It took us a couple of years to get a diagnosis and we tried every medical option available to us for a couple of years after that. We studied nutrition which has helped the rest of us but hasn’t touched the lymes. We turned to other types of care, non-traditional avenues and have seen small improvements. We kept him alive but at what cost? It has been debilitating for Dana and our family in general and while we have seen a few improvements nothing has helped him feel better or recover.

I know that we have to power to touch the Lords heart through prayer and call down blessings for others but the answer has always been ‘not now’.

Over the past year I watch him suffer and have often had the thought wash over me, usually at night, that Dana might be gone by the time I wake up in the morning. And by gone, I mean that he just might die during the night. So, I touch his shoulder or hold his hand while he is sleeping so he won’t be alone.

In the morning, while I wake I pray. Then, last spring, I had the strongest feeling that it was time, that the Lord was going to heal him. I watched, alert to every change in his health and continued in prayer. I was watching for a miracle but instead the Lord sent him food. His body is being healed so fast it takes my breath away and it is a miracle to us. Ten years we have waited and hoped!

I have learned to be patient and to trust the Lord in a new and deeper way. I have learned to believe.

How do we pray?

  • We pray to our Father in heaven, as we were instructed by the Savior himself.
  • We pray kneeling down or bowing our heads for a moment in the middle of the day.
  • We pray out loud or silently in our heart.
  • We pray with our family or alone.
  • We pray in the morning and in the evening before we retire, we pray always.
  • We pray when we have faith we will be heard and we pray when we only have the strength to hope there is someone listening.
  • We pray with eloquent and lofty language and we pray when all we can manage is to send our grieving thoughts to Him.
  • We pray with others and we pray by ourselves.

But, most importantly, we pray.

The how of prayer is so much less important than the who, what, where, or when of prayer!

As a postscript, I know many of you are dealing with your own health issues and will have questions about what we found that is helping him regain his health. I am writing about it here, if you want to know more. But with or without what we have found, prayer is the answer and the key that will unlock the door to heaven for each of us!



Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks To God

Photo courtesy of Miller
Photo courtesy of Miller

After British General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Congress proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving, October 11, 1782. The declaration read in part,

‘It being the indispensable duty of all nations to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the United States in Congress assembled do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe the last Thursday of November next, as a Day of Solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies.’

Massachusetts Governor John Hancock proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving, November 8, 1783.

‘The Citizens of these United States have every Reason for Praise and Gratitude to the God of their salvation. I do appoint the 11th day of December next to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate. That we also offer up fervent supplications, to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish and to fill the world with His glory.’

When the U.S. Congress passed the First Amendment, it requested President George Washington issue a National Day of Thanksgiving. He did so on October 3, 1789.

‘Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now, therefore, I do recommend Thursday, the 26th day of November to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.

That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble Thanks for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed and to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.’

Many years have passed since the first days of thanksgiving and prayer. I am concerned that we have forgotten just how much we need the tender mercy of God.

Can we make this day a true day of thanksgiving and gratitude? Enjoy a day spent with family AND remember the reason we are gathered together. Rededicate ourselves to the ideals and morals that made us a great nation, willingly placing ourselves ‘under God’ and His laws and precepts.

I ask our Father in Heaven to pour out His blessings upon us, as a people and as a nation. And that we might remember to give thanks to Him and mercy to each other. Amen.

THE Best Baby Shower Gift Ever – Bar None!

Photo courtesy of Panayiotou
Photo courtesy of Panayiotou

When I walk through the baby isles in any department store I practically swoon over the wealth of choice. Dresses and onsies and warm knit sleepers. Flannel blankets, bottles and the shoes, the shoes!

When I was having children the baby gifts I bought for others were dream driven, lace and frills prevailed. But gradually I became more and more practical, a huge box of diapers and the tallest stack of paper plates I could find is what I finally settled on as the standard gift.

That practicality held until we were expecting our first grandchild and now I can’t seem to keep my hands off of the most frilly dresses and the smallest jeans imaginable. And that includes buying shoes that no one in their right mind will ever use!

Recently though I was invited to a shower and someone definitely hit a home run with a gift that cost a total of $9.63 and has the potential to define how the parents view the next 20 years.

You could tell that the gift was heavy, the mother to be handled it carefully and her face was puzzled as she opened it and pulled out a jar of pennies.

The woman who brought the gift hastily explained, ‘In the jar is a penny for every week you will raise your child.’ She said. ‘You take out a penny every Sunday, it will be a reminder of the time you have left to raise them before they go out on their own.’

I now have a new traditional baby gift and I can’t help but wish I had known about this a bit earlier! Watching the level of pennies in the jar week by week would have been a dramatic visual reminder of passing time.

Ask a mother of teenage children and you will hear the same report. ‘It goes so quickly’, each one will say. ‘Treasure every minute,’ is another thought we older mothers will try to impress upon new parents. My thought is that the days go slow but the years fly by.

So, if you weren’t fortunate enough to have been given a jar of 963 pennies when your baby was born, rush out and make a jar for yourself. And as you take out the requisite number of pennies representing the weeks of your child’s life, remember to first of all feel gratitude for them and secondly, feel the responsibility you have to them. To teach them. To love them. To guide them towards everything that is good.


Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

The Perfect Condolence Letter

Photo courtesy of Anemone Letterpress
Photo courtesy of Anemone Letterpress

Is it important to send a condolence note when someone dies? I know that when our son passed away the sweet notes and flowers passed by my eyes as a blur. I was not taking in the expressions of sympathy and love at the time. Later though, even years later, I remember the people who reached out to us with sympathy.

Meals, flowers, letters, hugs, tears. All these made their mark and taught me how to comfort those who grieve.

What can you say?

It is important to start. We all know enough about pain to want to stay far away from it so it becomes difficult to begin the task. It is going to feel awkward, don’t try to pretend this will be easy.

The most beautiful letters focus on the readers loss, not on the death of the person they loved. The loss is what we grieve. So instead of saying, ‘I am so sorry your mother died.’ I would say, ‘I am so sorry you have lost your mother.’ A most gentle and tender way of expressing how you feel.

Move quickly through the beginning and write all you can about what you will miss about their loved one. The possibilities are endless. Remember them in every joyful way!

For instance, a neighbor wrote us after our son had died and commented on how much she enjoyed watching Dale play on the lane, how she would miss his laughter and presence when she looked out her front window. A reminder that his life had touched hers.

The sharing of memories is a welcome reminder that the one we lost is irreplaceable.

If you didn’t know them personally, you can always tell them that you will always remember how much people loved their loved one. How much their life meant to so many.

I would end your note telling them that your thoughts and prayers are with them. Express your love and friendship and sorrow, you are sharing yourself with them.

By far, the most eloquent condolence letter I have ever read is the one President Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Bixby when he learned that she had lost five sons in the Civil War. The fact that there are questions about how many sons did die, or who, in fact, wrote the letter the president signed is irrelevant to the beauty of the writing.

The perfect condolence letter:

Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln

Who uses the word ‘beguile’ anymore? Perfection!


What I Learn From Elisha

Photo courtesy of Roffey
Photo courtesy of Roffey

One of the greatest stories ever told begins in Syria, when the king asked his servants which among them was confederate with Israel. Someone in the group was a spy and I would imagine that it was a dangerous moment for the kings advisers. One of them spoke up and blamed Elisha, the prophet in Israel.

‘He telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber,’ was the report.

The king of Syria commanded them to find Elisha and commissioned them to bring him back to Syria. They went by night and surrounded the city of Dothan.

When the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto Elisha, ‘what shall we do?’

And Elisha answered, ‘Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.’

Can you imagine in your mind the confusion Elisha’s servant must have felt at his words? He could see the Syrian army camped outside the city, but the hills were empty of any defending force. Still, I imagine that the man must have had faith in Elisha’s words. Why else would his eyes be open to see what a prophet saw upon the hills?

And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

This is the part of the story that we all know, but what happened next is what taught me the sweetest lessons.

And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, ‘Smite these people, I pray thee, with blindness.’ And the Lord smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

The army of the Syrians was now at the mercy of Israel. They had trespassed on their land and according to any standard of self-interest the Israelite king could have slaughtered them all.

But, as was the custom, the king asked the prophet what the Lord would have them do.

They were instructed to lead them back to Syria where they fed them and allowed them to return home.

And the story ends with the sentence, ‘So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel’.

Here is what I have learned from this majestic story.

  • The Lord has great power. Just because we don’t see the chariots encamped on the hills about us, they are there ready to protect us. We need to stay on the Lord’s side in the battles of our day.
  • We need to be willing to look. To open our eyes and see what is real even we are the only one that can see.
  • We don’t need to take advantage of our enemy’s weakness. Compassion is Godly and fine.
  • Listen to the prophet and trust what he can see.

When I need faith, I remember this story and a hundred others like this. When I read them or tell them to myself I can feel my trust and peace getting stronger. I can feel doubt and fear fading away.

There are times when we need faith. When you reach that place, hold on tightly to anything that brings you closer to God.

If you find that you fall short, there are those placed in your life that can lend you strength. You should also remember that the Lord will not leave you alone. He is there ready to lift you up, to console and protect you in your hour of need.

It is true. It is true!

How to Bury a Prophet — Kathleen Flake

Gordon Bitner Hinckley
Gordon B. Hinckley 23 June 1910 – 27 January 2008

For anyone that wonders what Mormons believe about death, this encapsulates the essence of it well. Written by Kathleen Flake, it sums up our hopes beautifully. I have included a photo of the prophet’s headstone. What do you think it says about him? I see a monument to a truly humble life.

February 7, 2008

‘The Latter-day Saints buried their prophet on Saturday (2008). Thousands attended the service in person and millions more faithful watched in chapels around the globe, as well as on the internet. What they saw was an unusually personal ceremony for a very public man who led and to large degree defined the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notwithstanding the numbers and titles of participants, Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was a family affair both in word and sacrament. It was an extraordinary display of what makes Mormonism tick.

Gordon Hinckley died at the age of ninety-seven, having been in the church’s leading councils since 1958 and serving as its fifteenth president since 1995. He shaped the church through a half century of growth in one hundred and seventy countries. A third of its present membership joined during his tenure as president. Displaying remarkable vigor late in life, he met with church members on every continent, responding to their needs with curricular, welfare, and building programs whose costs are impossible to imagine and no one will admit. He met the press to a degree unequaled and with an openness heretofore unknown among Mormonism’s leadership. This effort too was largely successful. No less a cynic than CBS’s Mike Wallace admitted that Hinckley “fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.” He was, as Newsweek‘s Jon Meacham said, “a charming and engaging man, an unlikely prelate — and all the more impressive for that.” The same could be said of his funeral.

Hinckley’s funeral was an unlikely but impressive mix of the sacramental and the mundane, in large part because it observed Mormonism’s custom that families bury their dead. The family designs the memorial program, participates actively in it, and performs the ordinances that send their loved ones off to the next life. Yes, the chapel in this case was the LDS Conference center that held 21,000 mourners; the lay pastor who conducted the meeting was Thomas Monson, Hinckley’s presumptive successor as “prophet, seer, and revelator;” and the music was provided by the three-hundred-plus member Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But, in all other essentials, the service was performed by the family. A son gave the invocation. Monson conducted at the request of the family, he said, not by ecclesiastical right. The eulogy was given by a daughter who described her father’s life as half-way point in a now seven-generation story of sacrifice, death, and survival that is the Mormon saga. Explicitly gathering the millions watching into that story, she declared “we are one family sharing an inheritance of faith.” Friends with high titles spoke next. Though the requisite list of Hinckley’s ecclesiastical accomplishments was given, it was subordinated to his success as a courageous and amusing friend and a successful husband and father. Another daughter gave the benediction: “We are buoyed by the knowledge that we will see him again as family, as friends.”

Hinckley’s sons and daughters with their spouses led the casket out of the hall and between an honor guard of church authorities. Cameras followed the mourners, focusing on his five children, twenty-five grandchildren and sixty-two great-grandchildren who formed the cortege to the cemetery. There, possibly most surprisingly, the eldest son dedicated the grave without fanfare. Notwithstanding the presence of the entire church hierarchy, the son stepped forward to pronounce: “By the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, I dedicate this grave for the remains of Gordon B. Hinckley, until such time as thou shall call him forth.” Then, church leaders were “dismissed,” as Monson put it. As the church teaches is the case in the afterlife, only the family remained.

Families are, as Latter-day Saints like to say, forever. What they don’t say is that the church is not forever. It is only the instrument for endowing families with the right and duty to mediate the gifts of the gospel to their members, thereby sealing the willing among them as families in the life to come. This was Hinckley’s message as a prophet. As he would have it and as the best Mormon funerals do, his message was embodied and enacted by his family who blessed him in death, no less than in life. This is how the Latter-day Saints, at least, bury a prophet.’

What Is This Thing That Men Call Death?

Gordon B. Hinckley

What is this thing that men call death?
This quiet passing in the night?
‘Tis not the end but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light

O God, touch Thou my aching heart
And calm my troubled, haunting fears
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure
Give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change
With recompense for vict’ry won
The gift of Him who loved all men
The Son of God, the Holy One.

Photo courtesy of Lund
Photo courtesy of Lund

What E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part

Photo courtesy of Petersburg Orthodox
Photo courtesy of Petersburg Orthodox

I had the opportunity to sit in church last week for an hour-long program performed solely by a children’s choir. I watched two little girls turn in their chairs to face each other completely ignoring the audience and the chorister, talking intently to each other.  We all watched a little boy chew on his tie for most of the program. He looked at us while we watched him, interested in anything but the director. The children dressed in their Sunday best, ready to perform, ranging in age from 3 to 12.

Near the end of the performance they sang a hymn, the little ones were tiring and the song was demanding. During the third and fourth verses I felt as much as heard the pianist, the chorister and two or three of the older children carry the rest of the choir. The pianist intensified her playing.  The chorister sharpened her focus on the children. The girls that knew the song perfectly sang with a confidence that pulled the rest of the children along with them.

The children that weren’t sure of the tune or the words were quick to hear and follow their lead.

I thought about that experience on the drive home and was reminded of a time we had hiked into some mountains out west. We had stopped on an overlook and as we were gazing over the valley below a small herd of horses topped a rise, running full-out. The lead horse was white and had a long mane that streamed out behind him. The herd followed the lead horse perfectly, his slightest change in direction pulled the whole group along as if on a string, they moved as a group even at full speed!

I am reminded how much we depend on each other in times of doubt or uncertainty. I am inclined to listen to and follow those that sing or run or act with knowledge that they are going the right way. And I appreciate those who are willing to step up in challenging situations and be the leader that rallies us to do what is right.

I remember going to a movie once with a group, the film was utter trash. We all sat there with our popcorn and our ticket stubs until one of the boys leaned forward in his seat and looked down the row at each of us. When he had our attention he stood and we followed him out of the theatre. Each of us had felt the same, and it took little to get us to do what was right, but it did take someone who was certain to act and pull the rest of us along with him.

At birth we were given a priceless gift, called by some ‘the light of Christ’. By others it is called ‘conscience’. We know right from wrong. Fundamental standards of right and wrong are amazingly similar throughout the world. The light that helps us to know right from wrong has been given to each of us, dispensed from our Father in heaven, to help us find our way back to His kingdom.

Knowing what is right is the easy part. Having the courage to do what is right, that is where we can all use help now and then.

To those of my readers that have influence or pull in this world, I am asking you to use it to bring those of us that waver with you. When you are strong, other’s will follow and when you are weak perhaps someone you have lent strength to will step up and take their turn.

We all thank you for not wavering. Thank you for lending us the strength of your surety. I hope that someday you will be able to look at the path behind you and see the people you have influenced for good. I know you will say that you are only following our Savior and I thank God that there are those that have the ability to follow, for you are leaders to the rest of us!

What e’er thou art, act well thy part!

Keep Calm and Blog On

Photo courtesy of brennemans
Photo courtesy of brennemans

So what is this Keep Calm and Carry On thing all about?

The saying originated in England during the second World War. It was the third in a series of posters, designed to boost the morale of the people by passing on a message from King George VI.

Printed but never distributed, it was intended to be used only if invasion was imminent. The posters were collected and reduced to pulp at the end of the war in 1945.

In 2000 Stuart and Mary Manley, who run a bookshop called Barter Books in Northumberland, found one of the few remaining copies of the poster while sorting through a box of old books. They had the poster framed and placed near the till in their shop.

It wasn’t long before customers began asking if they could buy it. So, in the year of our Lord 2000, Stuart and Mary started selling and printing facsimile copies of the poster. The rest, as they say, is history…

What I am leading up to is this. The morning after our little son Dale died was bleak, we woke up from sweet dreams into a living nightmare. But, as I watched the dawn creep over our window sill that morning my mind and then my heart reviewed everything I believed about death.

Did I still believe that we lived before our birth as spirit children of God?

Did I still believe that we came here for a purpose?

Did I still believe that God was watching over us, with a tender and loving heart?

Did I still believe that families can be together forever?

Did I still believe that death has a purpose?

Did I still believe that God is loving and kind?

If I did believe these things, and I found that I did, then I had an obligation to show my faith by my works. I had a responsibility to witness to anyone watching, that I did believe in every truth I had been taught about life and death.

My grief was thus tempered and softened by my faith. And, though I didn’t know the words that day, I did keep calm and carry on. I felt an obligation to live as a witness of the gospel of Christ.

I solemnly proclaim to any who suffer grief and loss that in a not far distant day we will be reunited with our loved ones. They are not lost to us forever. Our Father in Heaven loves us, even as the ravages of life take place. He is watching over us and will welcome us home to Him. There we will suffer no more sorrow, no more grief, no more hunger or pain.

With this caveat. We are preparing for life with God now. We are not expected to be perfect right this minute but we do show our faith by what we do and what we say. Minute by minute, day by day, year by year we chart our path back to our home in heaven.

So Keep Calm and don’t forget to Carry On!

Comfort For Our Grief This Day

Stephen - so sorry to say goodbye
Stephen – so sorry to say goodbye

I am occasionally troubled by nightmares, usually a variation of dreams about our little boy in a coffin, but after finding this story I find it easier to push the image away and look forward instead to the day he will be restored to us.   The following is my summary of an experience recorded by Zeke Johnson.

“I was breaking farm ground in San Juan County Utah, making a home in Blanding.  The whole area was covered with scrubby desert trees and sagebrush. Working to clear the ground, my little boy Roy was with me to help plant the corn. I’d plow a row, he would plant the furrow with corn and I’d cover it and plow again. While plowing I discovered the remains of ancient buildings.

As I was plowing I noticed that my plow had turned out the skeleton of a small child,

the skull and backbone were visible but most of the bones had decayed. I stopped plowing immediately and turned and looked back. As I was looking at that little skeleton, and to my great surprise, I saw the bones begin to wiggle and begin to change positions and to take on a different color and within a minute a beautiful little skeleton had formed on the earth. It was perfect.

Next I saw the inner parts of the natural body coming in,  the entrails, heart, lungs, etc. I saw flesh coming on and I saw the skin come on the body when the inner parts of the body were complete. A beautiful head of hair adorned the top of the head and in about a half-minute after the hair was on the head, a beautiful crystal decoration appeared in the hair which was perfectly combed and parted on one side. In about half a minute after the hair was on the head, the child stood up on her feet. As she got up a beautiful robe came down over her left shoulder and I saw it was a girl, about 5 to 7 years old.

She looked at me and I looked at her, and for a quarter of a minute we just looked at each other smiling. Then in my ambition to get hold of her, I said, ‘Oh you beautiful child.’ I reached out as if I would embrace her and she disappeared.

I just stood and wondered and thought for a few minutes.  I couldn’t tell the story to anyone, because it was so mysterious to me. Why should I be witness to such a miraculous experience? I didn’t know the features of a human being enough to accidentally plow that little body out and imagine what happened.  I wondered and worried about this experience for years.   Why was I allowed to see it, a common man like me – uneducated as I was. Why was I allowed to see such a marvelous manifestation of God’s powers? One day as I was walking along with my hoe on my shoulder, something said, ‘Stop under the shade of the tree for a few minutes and rest.’  As I stopped in the shade understanding was finally given to me:

When the child was buried in my field it was either in time of war or it was during wintertime when the ground was frozen, and they had no tools to dig a deep grave.  If it were during time of war they couldn’t possibly take time to dig a deep grave. They just cared for the little body as they could under the circumstances. I could hear the sorrowing mother worry about her daughter buried in such a little shallow grave.  She knew that  the first beast that came along would smell her body, dig her up and scatter her to the four winds.

A man in their company, a minister of God promised the mother saying,  ‘Calm your sorrows, for when her body is disturbed or uncovered, the Lord will call her up and she will live.’

Since that time I have taken great comfort, great cheer, consolation and satisfaction with praise in my heart and soul, until I haven’t the words to express it, that it was I that uncovered that little body and saw that resurrection.”

I look forward to the day our sorrow will be replaced in full measure by the joy of reuniting again with those we have loved and lost.  Until then, I will nurture faith and push away fear.

My family is mourning the death of our son, brother, nephew, uncle, grandson and friend this day and we will miss him until we are reunited again. Hopefully, this story will help us all remember the sweetness he brought to our lives instead of the way he left us. Too many angels watching over us!

Die Like a Hero Going Home

Photo courtesy of Richards
Photo courtesy of Richards

I have a distant relative that lived in Bluebell Utah. How I love the name of that town! I see green field and sunshine and wild flowers every time I think about this story.

She was 91 and hadn’t been feeling well, decided it was time to see the family doctor. Can you see her beautifully permed hair and her sensible shoes? Surly a purse dangled from her arm. The doctor ran some tests and did some blood work and visited for a few minutes with my great-aunt and then sent her home to wait. It was only a few days before she was summoned again to the office and the news was delivered gently.

‘Should I call your daughter? Can I have someone drive you home?’ They asked.

The doctor was surprised when Aunt Minnie gathered her belongings and stood. ‘We need to talk about treatment’ he began. But Minnie didn’t sit.

‘I am old,’ she began, ‘and I don’t need a few extra months.’

She drove herself home and prepared her life for death. She made arrangements with the utility companies, paid her taxes and talked to her loved ones. She did not invite fear or regret living. She did not turn herself over to hospitals and doctors to be treated and promised a few weeks here or there. She settled her affairs and faced the future with a trust in God and herself.

I don’t know if I will end my life this way, this calmly, this focused but I think about her example all the time.

There are times to fight for life, for health and fighting may be the highest and best use of our time, energy and resources. I have friends who are battling cancer right this minute and I pray for them with all the energy of my soul. When the pull of life is strong and you have people to serve and love, I give you leave to go to battle.

However, if it is time and your loved ones can let go then don’t be afraid to embrace death as a friend. After all, isn’t death the last great adventure?

‘When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.’  Tecumseh

When I leave this life, when you come to say goodbye, I pray you will hear me singing!

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Photo courtesy of Olivera
Photo courtesy of Olivera

Two weeks before our son died I had some professional pictures taken of him and our daughter Jody. It was pure agony for Dale, but he tried his best to do what the photographer asked of him.  Jody, on the other hand, grinned from ear to ear the during whole session.

When he passed away we went to the studio to see if we could get a portrait for the funeral only to find out they had lost the pictures, negatives and all! They offered to re-take the pictures, I mumbled something about that being impossible and we left.

Later, when I looked through Dale’s woefully small journal, the pictures were sweet but didn’t bring him back. Which only served to push photo’s farther and farther down my ‘to-do’ list.

Family pictures seemed a little pointless because we were missing so many little faces.

Then I heard about a service that comes to the hospital and takes professional photographs when a child dies. It is called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and you can see their website here.

If you know anyone in the position of losing a child, please share this service with them. I went on their website and looked up photographers in my zip code and six names and phone numbers were listed. They photograph the child for no cost. What a wonderful service and the pictures are breathtakingly beautiful.

Looking back on our experience, I can honestly say that this might have helped me. I hope this simple post will be the instrument to someday provide a service that will help someone else in their hour of greatest need.

Will you, my sweet readers, be my hands and help spread the word?

Debunking the Hoax of Self-Esteem

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I love words!  I can remember how happy I felt whenever my kids mispronounced certain words because they had learned the meaning by reading rather than in conversation.  Melancholy was one of them.  Our daughter Jody mangled it several times before I realized what she was trying to say.

There are some words like ‘mother’ or ‘book’ that are universally understood. We don’t need to make any great effort when using them. Other words require more discipline when using them to communicate. Words such as faith, prayer and God, all need to be fleshed out if we truly want to be understood when using them.

So, in an effort to foster clear, exceptional communication I thought I should write about how I feel about the concept of self-esteem.

It is a given, in our society, that self-esteem is an essential building block of all relationships, including how we treat ourselves. And while I agree with the premise, I object to the word ‘self-esteem’.  I would rather call it ‘self or personal worth’.

I think what I would like to change is the concept of ‘self’.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

If, as a child, you had been taught that you are literally a child of God.

If you had felt, from infancy, the pure, unconditional love that originates from God and flows through parents, siblings and friends.

If you had been able to absorb the significance of your relationship with our Father in heaven and His pure and abiding love.

You would have a foundation upon which a proper self-esteem or self-worth can be built.

Instead, we are loved imperfectly, by imperfect parents.  We are counseled to improve ourselves, to build ourselves, which usually ends up causing us to focus on the ME.  It seems so logical, that self-esteem is all about me, but that is a lie. It is a distraction that ends up diverting our attention from what is most important to a distortion that will keep us from finding true, lasting happiness.

True self-esteem or self-worth is to be found when we realize the great love and esteem God has for us, even in our unworthy and imperfect condition.

When we realize how much we are loved, that love rubs off in our feelings for ourselves and for those around us, for all of God’s children.

It ends up being God’s esteem for us that causes us to value ourselves, to love ourselves and contributes to a healthy desire to grow and improve and become more and more like Him.

So, in order to foster love and self-esteem, I am setting you off on a search today, a quest for an understanding of the love God feels for you.  I think you know what you need to do, if not you can read more about how I would direct you here and here.

I hope you have an adventure of a lifetime!

We Have Clout

Photo courtesy of b.
Photo courtesy of b.

Each of us has a distinctive sphere of influence.  It doesn’t matter whether that realm is large or small, ultimately we each play a part everything that happens on the earth.

Mortality is creation and we have clout!

Small decisions, daily choices, our words, every prayer, each touch, these are the molecules of eternity and each choice makes its mark. (more…)

How Does Death Feel?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I know there are those of you who, while not afraid of being dead, have a general, nagging fear of actually dying.  I remember vividly a conversation I had with my grandfather a few years before he passed away.  As we talked I gradually realized that his fear of death was constantly lurking, tapping him on the shoulder and reminding him that an extremely unpleasant if not terrifying experience was waiting for him up the road. He would brush the topic away but his anxiety about it kept bringing it up again and again.  If you feel this way or if someone you love suffers from a fear of dying, this post is for you.

When our son passed away I was disturbed with thoughts about how he felt while dying.  Did he wonder where his mother was? Did he feel abandoned?  Drowning seems a horrible, suffocating, panicky way to die!

My default behavior when seeking information is to go to the library and I did so then. This was before the internet existed and I was fortunate to find a book that answered my questions and soothed all my anxiety.

The author detailed several kinds of traumatic death, talked to physicians and then interviewed people who had actually died and were brought back to life.  They spoke about how they felt and what they experienced as they died, what a topic!

In no case was the death painful or excruciating!  Car and other accidents, fire, drowning, heart attack and bleeding out were some of the types of death covered in the book.  Each type of death experience was discussed in great and generous detail.

The people who drowned, for instance, wrote about how they experienced a feeling of euphoria before death.  The nightmares I had of struggle and panic, did not happen, were not a part of their memory.

Universally, the people interviewed spoke about the pain they suffered at returning to life, not at leaving life.

Fear is a heavy burden to carry alone.  Imagine taking a hike with a 100 pound backpack, you can ignore the extra weight for a while but it will grow heavier and more burdensome with each step.  The only real relief would be to put the weight down. Some of us can put the fear of dying aside for moments but end up taking it up again and again.  We seem powerless to let it go and walk away!

I recently discovered a TED talk, given by an emergency responder.  He speaks about dying.  I learned and re-learned so much from this man, my first thought was to share it with you. Listen and share this information with others who might need reassurance.

You will discover that removing the lurking concerns you feel about dying will enable you to find an added measure of peace and hopefully, a renewed love of the life you are in the middle of living!

Memorable Headstone Sayings

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Photo courtesy of

When our son died my husband decided that he wanted to make a headstone for him.  Needless to say we still don’t have a stone marking his grave.  We were fortunate that Dana’s grandparents made provision for any child that died in the family, they are buried near their great-grandmother and it is comforting to think of them surrounded by an extended and loving family even in death.  I was once searching for headstone inscriptions and found these.  Headstones with style!

Here lies
Johnny Yeast
Pardon me
For not rising.

Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery:

Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.

Someone determined to be anonymous in Stowe, Vermont:

I was somebody.
Who, is no business
Of yours.

Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in the cowboy days of the 1880’s. He’s buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona:

Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.

In a Georgia cemetery:

“I told you I was sick!”


Creating Happiness

Photo courtesy of Yves Ocampo
Photo courtesy of Yves Ocampo

Did you know that happiness is a choice?  It is easy to think that beauty, popularity, wealth or other circumstances will cause happiness but I am here to witness that happiness is an inward choice not an event-driven state.  My son works at the charter side of our airport and has watched as celebrities and some of the wealthiest American’s come through his facility, he even gets to park their very cool cars.  He gets to see for himself that people are people and what gives us our distinctive characters are our choices, not our circumstances. Kindness, thoughtfulness, humility, friendliness and happiness are what we choose or not, and depend completely on what we want from the moment.

So, would you like to be happy?


Keeping In Touch After A Death

Photo courtesy of Dennis
Photo courtesy of Dennis

When our son died we were in the process of trying to move.  This was before cell phones and Facebook and the internet and when we left Maryland we were instantly cut off from most everyone who had known him. It was hard to be in a new place without any memories of Dale as a part of our family.

I remember talking with a woman while keeping our daughter from running off and she made the innocent comment, ‘Just wait until you have two!’  I was thrown into a new place and was making new friends, none of whom had any knowledge or memories that included our son and it was a lonely process.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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I wish I could find this covered bridge and go there this weekend!  I also thought I would share this book, a great read for a lazy weekend.  My daughter tried to get me to read it years ago but I resisted thinking it would be a gimmicky treatment of love and relationships.  I read it last year and even 3/4 into it I was sceptical.  Then I started the chapter about Acts of Service and I was hooked.  I am still working on getting my boys to tell me what love language they are.

This book tried to get my attention over and over during a weekend trip, it was stacked in an overflowing wall of books on a stairway that led into the attic bedroom.  I went up and down those stairs umpteen times and every time I tread those boards this tiny book caught my eye. Eventually, I succumbed and pulled it out.  I read it while holding our daughter while she took a nap, once I read the first page I let her sleep the afternoon away.  It has changed the way I think about communication and it has helped me to trust other’s view points and experiences.  People act in a way that makes sense to them and the people I associate with are generally good to the core.  I hope you will love these books as much as I do.  I would love hear what you have learned from them.

A True Lady Instructs Us On The Correct Way To Arrive In Heaven

Photo courtesy of Martell
Photo courtesy of Martell

I grew up on the east coast and though it was country, it was east coast glitzy country.  Kids drove expensive cars to school and families vacationed in Florida and took European sabbatical’s, but women were women back then and there was little of the ambivalence we feel now about traditional female roles in society.  Most of the women I knew were wives and mothers and unashamed to be so.  I knew the chain-smoking, poker playing mothers.  The ones that let their kids skip school to go to the beach with their friends.  I knew moms that packed lunches for five and were on every field trip in their sensible shoes and huge purses that held everything anyone could need.  I knew fashion plate moms that wore Angora sweaters and beautiful wool pants around the house, who wouldn’t have considered cleaning a toilet or changing the oil in their car.  I knew moms that played  (more…)

No Regrets

Mom and DaughtersLife is so often full of regrets.  We regret how we treated other people, the words we said.  We regret the choices we made.  It’s a rare occasion indeed that we can come through one of life’s biggest transitions without regret.  I feel so blessed that I have no regrets over my mother’s last days.  When she passed from this life into eternity, I knew that I had done everything possible to make her final months as comfortable as possible.  I had no regrets, beyond the fact that she was gone. (more…)

Leaving a Tribute at a Grave

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Photo courtesy of

Leaving a tribute at a grave is something I never thought about until recently hearing a story about a woman who makes an annual pilgrimage to her husband’s grave with a bottle of his favorite whiskey.  She pours a glass, proposes a toast and after taking a sip, pours out the entire glass on the grass.  Very Irish, don’t you think?

Without realizing it she is enacting (more…)

Death: Not a Bit of You is Gone, You’re Just Less Orderly

Photo courtesy of Harak
Photo courtesy of Harak

My new favorite eulogy.  It will remind you of Pride and Prejudice, or Lord of the Rings.  The last bit makes the rambling all worth it!

Aaron Freeman writes:  ‘You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind  (more…)

How Do I Know When it is Time to Die?

Photo courtesy of Katsoulis
Photo courtesy of Katsoulis

I remember every detail of the day Dale died, I have replayed each moment in my head and my heart for so many years that it is all etched in my DNA.  There was a time I wished that his death had been prolonged, an illness of some sort, a trip to the doctor’s office, tests and a trip to the hospital etc..  But as time has marched along I have been taught different.

Dale left us suddenly and we were faced with the reality of his dying almost from the first minute I found him in the pool. (more…)

Forget About a Neatly Packaged Timeline of Grief

Photo courtesy of Morgan
Photo courtesy of Morgan

We have all heard about the five stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I only read about this theory after our son had died, long after, and didn’t recognize a single step.  For me grief was not a journey with a defined finish line, it was a convoluted path filled with twists and turns, backtracks and re-do’s.

I love this thought from an article I found here, ‘Grief is like trying to swim past the break in the ocean – you wade in but every once in a while a wave comes up and knocks you back a few feet. You’re still deeper than when you started, but not as deep as you were before the wave hit. How long will it take you to get past the break? It depends on your strength, the ocean, the tide and the weather.’

The idea of a grief timeline is somewhat of a simplistic concept, a neatly packaged theory we can thrust at someone in the messy throes of grief and say, ‘there you go, get on with it!’.  Anyone familiar with grief understands that setbacks, breakthroughs, roadblocks, triggers, and resolutions can occur anytime in the days, months and years following death. Inevitably our feelings of grief will abate but will never completely go away.

Again I quote the blog linked to earlier, ‘Grief does not end but with time it should look different – more peaceful, hopeful, constructive and positive.’

Grief is a universal experience.  Let me repeat.  Grief is a universal experience!  It is something we share because we are mortal and on this earth.  Try to be gentle with those who are recent inductees into the ranks of bereavement and work at having faith in God’s ability to teach us to throughout our mortal experiences.

What Does Baptism Have to do with Death?

Sunshine at Jordan
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The word baptism comes from a Greek word meaning to dip or immerse. Immersion is symbolic of the death of a person’s sinful life and the rebirth into a spiritual life, dedicated to the service of God and His children. It is also symbolic of death and resurrection, Romans 6:3–6. Baptism by water and the Spirit is necessary before a person can enter heaven. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and to show the way for all mankind. He set the example for us, are we willing to follow?

Verses of scripture from the bible are clear about the importance of baptism:

  • Suffer it to be so now to fulfill all righteousness:Matt. 3:15;
  • Jesus came and was baptized of John:Mark 1:9;
  • The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God, being not baptized:Luke 7:30;
  • Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God:John 3:5;
  • Repent, and be baptized every one of you:Acts 2:38;
  • Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:
  • Matt. 3:16; ( Mark 1:10; )
  • John was baptizing because there was much water there:John 3:23;
  • Philip and the eunuch went down into the water:Acts 8:38;
  • We are buried with him by baptism:Rom. 6:4; ( Col. 2:12; )

How to Initiate THE Dreaded Conversation About Death

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Photo courtesy of

There is a wonderful movement happening in LaCrosse, Wisconsin called Respecting Choices.  The program encourages advance care planning between the patients, their family and includes doctors.

The default in American medicine is to throw everything we’ve got at the patient in an effort to hold onto life, no matter the cost.  Financial or otherwise.  This often leads to aggressive care and intensive-care unit stays that can be painful for patients and their loved ones especially in the last weeks or months of life.  I think it is time to have the difficult conversation about death and our expectations and wishes. Here is a video of a family having that conversation.   

The visible relief of the daughter feeling responsible for her father’s care, knowing that he was happy with the decisions made about his wife’s passing, was touching.  And watching the father’s face as he talked about leaving them all one day, well, it was lovely to recognize the love he felt for his family.  I am sure you noticed how healthy the conversation was even though there were some strong emotions expressed.

If you are ready I have a link to the pamphlet used in Wisconsin here.  Read it over and then use it as a way to start the conversation with your own loved ones!  Death will come to each of us, it is inevitable, and I believe that having the courage to start the conversation about death will bring peace about the days and week leading up to death.

Another resource is here.  We (my husband and I) have had these discussions and I feel secure in knowing what he would want me to do if he was unable to make the decision himself.  Start today and I wish you success!

What To Wear To A Funeral

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Photo courtesy of

When I was sixteen I happened upon a book by Miss Manners and kept it on my bedstead for months.  I loved to immerse myself in her snarkily proper world and imagined myself watching events with just the right amount of insight and reserve.  She once said that she was at an event and she watched her friend dance right out of her slip and everyone swore they didn’t notice, to save her from being embarrassed.   A true friend!  She has this to say about what to wear to a funeral.

‘Dear Miss Manners:  Does it matter what you wear to a funeral?  I hardly see anyone wearing black anymore, except possibly, the widow.

Gentle Reader:  Dark clothes should be worn to a funeral, although most people cherish the mistaken notion that the deceased would prefer them to be casual and comfortable, rather than to make a special effort on his behalf.  However, there is such a thing as ostentatious mourning.  A mysterious woman who shows up at a funeral more festooned in black than the widow is making what is known as a fashion statement.’

And, I might add, the ‘little black dress’ you wear for a night out on the town is not the right thing to wear to a funeral!

Men should put on a somber, dark suit and tie.  Women should wear black or gray, with closed toed shoes.  In the south it is still respectable to wear a hat to a funeral.  If you remember that you are not there to draw attention to yourself then I am sure you will figure out how to dress in a way that will show your respect for the family.

Even if everyone else decides to go casual, you can make a statement of class by showing up dressed to dignify the day.

Comfort Food Italian Style

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When I ask my children what they want for dinner they pick the same meals over and over, they never get tired of spaghetti, wraps or roasted chicken!  Especially if I make a loaf or two of Italian bread to go with dinner.  And once I realized that I could set the bread maker on the ‘dough’ cycle it is easy to let the machine do most of the work.  All I have to do is shape the bread, cover it and remember to bake it.  Since I am home during the day my version of fast food is dinner that can simmer on the stove or bake in the oven early in the day.  My life just seems less frantic when I can put dinner on at about 10 am.  Then when the troops get hungry at about 4 all we need to do is heat it all up, set out a salad and some butter, pray and dig in.

Meals are such an important part of our family, our bodies are designed to need food often for a reason. Meals can be a time to talk and visit, to enjoy each other, but it takes some effort and love to create the atmosphere and family magic.  Some people use beautiful food presentation on a well set table to set the scene, I prefer using the sense of smell to call the family to the table.  And the sense of taste to keep them there long enough to fill their tummies and spend some time together.  I know it can be a relentless chore but once you have created a family, it needs to be done.  I have cooked three meals a day for 32 years, (we don’t have cold cereal for breakfast!)  I know it can be done and the effort will pay off in family identity and feelings of love and appreciation.

Here is our treasured recipe for spaghetti sauce.  I don’t know exactly what makes it so good but I think it is using the stewed tomato purée, it tastes fresh somehow.  The mushrooms are optional.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 Pound Ground Beef

1 Medium Onion, Chopped

1 Green Pepper, Chopped

6 Large Mushrooms, Chopped

3 Cloves Garlic, Minced

3 Small Cans Tomato Sauce

3 Big Cans Stewed Tomatoes, pureed

1 Tablespoon Salt, start with 2 teaspoons and add more until it tastes right.  Tomatoes love salt!

1 Tablespoon Oregano, Chopped

1 Tablespoon Basil, Chopped

1 Tablespoon Parsley, Chopped

1/8 Cup Parmesan, Optional

Brown beef and onion add the garlic and cook for one minute until fragrant.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for at least 1 hour.  Serve over thin spaghetti noodles.