Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Kid, a Dog Named Tiger, and Some Thoughts About Christmas

This little reminiscence (another word to ask your parents about-if they can remember...) will probably be a short tale  Kind of like Hairy's (BDE).

When I was younger--now, wait, what does that mean?  It wouldn't make any sense to start a story with "When I was older"!  Because I couldn't have been older when I "was", now could I?  "When I was", relating to my age, already means when I was younger-It couldn't mean anything else.  Hmm, how to better start?...  OK, try this: (and ignore all of the preceding paragraph, if you don't mind).

When I was a lad of 5 or 6, or I could have been 7 or 8, I'm sure I wasn't over 9-anyway, it was quite some time ago and I was much younger than I am now (I think you can figure out that I was definitely not older than I am now-that would be quite Merlin-esque of me, don't you think).  OK, now that we have established that this happened when I was a young boy, we can get on with the tale.

 At this time of my life, I was lucky to have a dog named Tiger.  I'm not sure how he became my dog, and not one of my two brothers'.  Maybe it was because I fed him and played with him.  We shared many good things in life.  Including Tiger letting me sample his canned Horsemeat and Gravy (tasty!) that I bought for him at Farrer's market on the corner of 3rd East and 2700 South.
Tiger was good to me, he was able to listen, he would run around with me in the yard and follow me on my trusty Schwinn mega-bicycle.  Yes, this is the same bike that somehow attacked my little brother Steve and almost broke the poor kid.  Yes, I was riding the bike, but I promise-that bike had a mind of its own!  And Steve zigged when he should have zagged.

OK, where was I?  I was younger (OK, we discussed that), I had a dog named Tiger, (now, why do we name dogs after types of cats?), and...hmm-Oh yeah-Tiger was my best friend most of the time.  My brothers were-well, they were my brothers.  All of you with siblings understand what I mean, don't you?  Brothers (or sisters-but we didn't have one of those yet-Tammy comes in years later) are special and wonderful and can be your friends.  But sometimes they aren't.  A good dog can always be your friend.  But the dog can't be your brother.  And I wouldn't have traded either of my brothers for my dog.  Most of the time.  OK-we will return to Tiger and his part of this tale in a couple of minutes.  The next question will seem totally unrelated, but I guarantee this tale will make sense at the tail end.  I hope.  Ready?

Why did Jesus come to Earth?  Why was he born?  Why did he live a perfect life and then carry out the atonement?  I'll wait until you give your answers.  OK, Ready?

I think many of us would say that He came atoned for us so we could be forgiven of our sins and be able to live again after this life.  And that would be correct-but not the full answer.  I know this is an infinite blessing for us-to be cleansed of our sins-and to be able to live after this life, but there is more!

We have been taught the following in the scriptures (this is from Alma Chapter 7)-

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
 11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
 13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Now, if you read all of that above, you can tell your parents you did your scripture reading today.  

As you read these verses, try to find all of the reasons that Jesus came to earth.  I'll list some I see, in the order I see them-

He shall go forth, suffering-
    pains
    afflictions
    temptations of every kind
Why?-"that he might know how to succor (look up what this word means-or ask your folks, if you think they are feeling particularly smart tonight) his people according to their infirmities.

Also--"And he will take upon him death..."  Why?  "...that he may loose the bands of death"
Then-"...he will take upon him their infirmities..."  Why?  "..that he might know how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

Now, you might need to talk with your parents about what "infirmities"means.  It means mostly what it sounds like, but feel free to ask them so they can feel good about helping you learn something.  I'll wait.  OK, done?-Good.

What does all that mean?  It means that our Savior experienced life-including, somehow, all the pains, afflictions, temptations (of every kind!), death and infirmities-that we could ever experience in life.  And Why?  .
So that He could "succor his people".  (did you ask your parents what that word means?  If they didn't know, then look it up.)  It was so He could "rush to our aid".  It was so, when we have times when we know no one could possibly understand what we are going through, how bad, difficult, stinky, rotten life is for us, how there is absolutely no hope-if we can remember and lean and trust on Him, we can find relief.  For anything that troubles, hurts, saddens us or strips us of happiness and hope.  We can find in our Savior-that Babe born in Bethlehem-absolute empathy and Hope.  He knows how to succor us!

Now, what does this have to do with Tiger the dog?  There were times in my young life, just like in yours, when I felt abandoned by friends, scorned by brothers (or sisters, if I had had some then), ignored by parents, and basically wronged by the world.  I felt, in those times, that no one could possibly understand what I was feeling or going through, or how rotten my life was.  Except Tiger the dog.  I remember several times when Tiger and I would hide in our room (the room I shared with my 2 brothers-sound familiar Tanners?) or out behind the willows in our back yard and I would cry and tell Tiger all my troubles.  He would lay his head on my lap, watch me with his dark eyes and give me a little lick.  And my 6 year old troubles would start to become manageable.

Now, imagine that you had a Tiger the dog, only infinitely more able to understand and help you when you need it.  Now matter what  help you need.  Remember the list?  Pains, afflictions, temptations, infirmities?  That covers about everything, don't you think?  Tiger the dog could lick my face and help my heart feel a bit better.
The Savior can heal my heart and help me be a better person.  So I can help His other children.  That's when we best feel that our hearts have been healed.  (That's what happened to that old Grinch fellow.) We can talk about that another time.

What wonderful blessing from that Babe in a manger!  Oh, yes, if you look in verse 13 above it also tells us that He came to take upon Him our transgressions so our sins can be blotted out.  But you already knew that.

I hope that all of your hearts are happy and growing this Christmas time.  But I know we will all have times of trouble, despair, sadness and wo.  I really hope when those tough times hit us that we can remember to ask the Savior for relief and let Him rush to our aid.  Maybe some of his aid will come through your Mom or Dad or a sibling.  Or even your dog!

Then we can help others, our hearts will grow and hope will blossom in us and we can find Joy again.  Like Tiny Tim said-"God bless us, every one!"  And He can and does!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

" I Really, Really Hope You Like It!"

OK-no old tales of Christmases Past today.  Maybe some will end up here later this season.
Today, I want to tell a tale of Christmas Present.  And Christmas Presents.
First, a thought on keeping Christmas.  Old E Scrooge found out about "keeping Christmas" from the visits he had on that night long ago. "...he knew how to keep Christmas well...".  I think you all should take time to read Scrooge's story this year.  It is short, so try to pay attention while your mom or dad reads it to you.  At least, or, even better, watch the Muppet Christmas Carol after you've read the book.
We have so much distraction during Christmas by the noise, noise noise of the world telling us what we don't have and really, really should have-or we can't be happy!  And then we tend to think about what we are getting for Christmas.  And we worry that we won't get what we want.  What a disaster that would be!  
Hmm...not really the Christmas spirit, is it?

We just got to spend a couple days at the cabin with some of the grandkids.  No stores, trips, practices, phones, internet.  Just the kids and the fortunate few adults and the woods around the cabin and, if we're fortunate, some snow.  We did have snow, and there was some awesome sledding and sliding done by the kiddos.  We can talk about that later.

Last year we took some of the older kids up to the cabin after Thanksgiving.  We didn't take the younger ones since the boys had to walk in a couple miles in the snow.  Grandma had the boys draw names and make presents for each other from what they could find around the cabin.  It was so fun, we thought we should do it again, so we did!

This year, even the shorter kiddos came, and it was wonderful!  Let me tell you what I saw.

After a busy day of sliding and sledding, we took a walk and found our Christmas branch and some dried grass and stems and things to decorate with.  Then we came home and the kids put lights and homemade decorations on the Branch.  It was beautiful.  Then Grandma had them draw names to see who they would make a Christmas present for the next day.  No one was allowed to tell the others whose name he had!  Then to bed.  There was a bit of fussing and figuring out how to smile before bedtime, but I think that is because we were all pretty tired after such a busy day.

The next day we got out whatever stuff we had around the cabin.  The kids had wood, sticks, paint, hammers, nails, drills, chunks of logs, and their imagination.  They also had a desire to make a Christmas present that the person they were giving to would like.

And so Christmas Present building commenced!  There was much hammering, painting, drilling, cutting and figuring what do to.  Maybe the figuring came first.  Some of the time.
As the presents came to life, the kids would quietly tell the adults supervising (we did not have any serious injuries or blood loss) that they "Really, really" hoped that the person for whom the gift was intended would like the gift being crafted.  There was much effort and love put in these presents.

After lunch, it was time for the presentation of the presents!  There was some nervousness that the recipients would like the presents made for them.  I remember these presents being made-

 -A beautiful, firm bed for a kitty
-A very fast looking broom for playing quidditch
-A handcrafted split log with nails strategically placed for making designs with rubber bands
-Another quick, maneuverable quidditch broom
-A springy bow for shooting arrows
-A solid wood checker board and wooden checkers
-A fresco created with snail shells and vibrant colors

There were also individualized name tags and notes and other little personal touches.
(If I have forgotten anything, it is just because I am getting old and don't remember things like I used to-not because whatever you made wasn't just wonderful!)

Then the time came for exchanging presents.  It was wondrous (yes, that is a real word) to see the reactions of the gift-givers as appreciation was shown for each present presented!  I saw hugs and heard "thank-you" and "I love it".
Even today, I asked a couple of the kiddos if they were more worried about the presents being appreciated by the person they gave it to or about what they may get.  I heard, without hesitation, that they were "way more" worried about how the gifts they gave would be received.  They were much more concerned about giving then getting!

How I hope we can keep this attitude as we go though Christmas time.
.
Let me tell you about two Christmas Presents for just a couple more minutes.

First-the Present we've all been given.  That Gift heralded by the angles.  That Gift that is the Good News for all of us.  Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us His Son.  So we can learn and grow and change and love and return with our families to Him.  And I think that Heavenly Father "really, really" hopes that we like his Gift to us.

Next, the present we get to give back to Heavenly Father.  He just wants----us.  More specifically, he wants our hearts.  No, not the organ that pumps blood and keeps us alive, but that part of us that is our core-our "essence".   The part of us that is our desires, hopes and motivations.  And we should hope that our hearts are crafted so Heavenly Father really, really likes them.

He wants us to want to do what we should to return to Him.  Having our hearts turned to him makes this possible.  But only because of His Gift to us.

And how do we know when are hearts are turned to Him?  It's when we want to do good-to be nice and kind and do what is good and right.  To help those around us to be better.  When we are "way more" concerned about the giving than the getting.

Remember how you felt when you wanted the person you were giving the gift to to really, really like it?  Heavenly Father really really likes it when we give Him our hearts.  And we give Him our hearts when our hearts have us help, serve and give to His children-everyone around us.  And we don't have to give snails and checkerboards and boards and brooms.  We can give smiles, good words, pats on the back, hugs, "atta boys", and...well, you get the idea.

OK-end of this story without old stories.  Remember to read (or at least watch) "Christmas Carol" this year.  I try to read this story every year to help me remember some important things.  There may be a test when we see each other during Christmas.  Maybe with prizes.

And remember to keep crafting our hearts, because we should "really really" want Heavenly Father to like them as we give them as gifts to Him.
And he does "really really" like them.  And you.







Sunday, November 22, 2015

"I Didn't Think I'd Miss That Little Finger So Much!"

OK-before we get too far, let me put your minds to ease-I have not lost any fingers, little or large.

 The Tale of the Missing Little Finger comes later in this brief blog.  (No, not the loss of one of my digits, nor the loss of my tail.  Which I never had to begin with-at least that you could see.  Of course, if I don't soon get going with this story, I might just lose my tale.)

I heard a lot about gratitude today.  I bet you did too, especially if you spent any time at church.  After all, Thanksgiving happens this week-on Grandma's birthday!  Isn't it wonderful that our nation takes time to recognize Grandma with a Day of Thanks ?!  Anyway, we get to have a wonderful holiday-one of my favorites-to reflect on all the wonderful things for which we should be thankful.  I heard inspiring messages about how we should have gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that we have, including our trials and challenges.  I enjoyed all the messages.

I got to teach the lesson in Nursery today.  Yes, it was on "Being Thankful".  We made hand-print turkeys, apple turkeys, sang songs (not about turkeys) and had treats.  We also had a lesson prepared by Grandma.  You may ask why I taught this lesson instead of Grandma-go ahead-ask.  I'll wait...
What's that?  Did you ask why I got to teach the lesson Grandma prepared?  Well, I'll tell you.  I got up early this morning thinking I had a pretty sweet, easy day.  Grandma was home and said she would fix dinner and I knew she had planned a wonderful nursery experience.  Just as I was anticipating a day of rest and renewal, Grandma got a phone call from the hospital.  Now, most of the calls we get from a hospital come from one of our families as they visit their own dedicated room in their hospital's emergency department.  We even got one last night!  But this call was from Grandma's work.  She had forgotten that she had to work today!  She gave me the 5 minute mentoring of what was supposed to happen in nursery today, as I was now in charge!  What a scary thought!  And I would get to take care of all the dinner preparation-something I can do-no complaints.  Where was I?  Oh yes-I was handed the nursery stuff and told to do my best.  Which I did!
The lesson was on being thankful.  (Notice how I just now jumped right back to the point of all this? Sweet!).  Grandma had made a shoe box TV with pictures of things the little tykes could recognize as things for which they should be thankful.  Jesus, the sun, food, pets, family, eyes, ears, home-you get the idea.

One of the pictures was of hands.  As I showed this one to the little ones, I realized how thankful I am for my hands and for all of my fingers and thumbs.  I also realized that, as my hands get older, they have started to be a bit cranky at times (kind of like me!)-especially in the middle of the night and when I first get up in the morning.  Also, I had my right thumb touch a (running) table saw blade a couple of years ago.  It did filet my poor thumb (ask your folks what that word means if you need to).  I am very grateful that it did not remove my poor thumb, as those opposable digits come in quite handy a lot of the time.  ("handy", as used in the previous sentence was a little witty, eh?).  However, as a result of the injury, I don't have feeling on about 70% of my thumb.  It does interfere with some of my daily activities.  I have learned to live with it, but I realize how much nicer it was with a fully functioning thumb!

Which brings me to the point of this post-not the pointy finger, but the little finger.
My father-your mom or dad's grandfather (like I am to you)-could fix anything mechanical.  No, really-he could.  As a kid, I spent hours fetching tools and parts, cleaning stuff and being a gopher-well, not the rodent "gopher"-I guess I could write it as "go-for", as in "Ricky-go-for another wrench for me".  He was always fixing something.  As he got older and we kids grew up and moved out of our family home-just like you will all do some day-but not soon, so don't fret about it-it will be fine-Dad continued to fix things.  I don't know who fetched his tools, parts and coffee after I left home.  I don't think my Mom would be a gopher. (no, you don't have any rodent family lines, at least that I am aware of.  I have noticed that some of you act a bit squirrely sometimes, but I think that is nurture more than nature).

Anyway, one day my dad (your great grandpa) was fixing his lawn mower.  He needed to move the lawn mower to see something under it.  The lawnmower was running at the time.  Your great grandpa was always working on things when they were running or had power to them.  It is never a good idea.  I saw him get jolted several times when he worked on live wiring.  Maybe those electrical jolts were the reason that he tried to carefully pick up a running lawn mower.  As he gingerly put his hands under the deck of the mower-where there is picture on your lawn mower that shows you that this is a dumb thing to do because you could have fingers cut off-he felt the blade hit his little finger.
Well, he did drop the mower (not on his toes, or we could have some symmetry to this tale) and grabbed his finger.  And he picked up the end of his little finger from the ground, as it was no longer attached to the rest of his little finger.

Grandma drove him to the hospital where they had Special Doctors take x-rays and look at his finger.  They decided that it would be a big,expensive surgery with little chance of success to try to put the end of his little finger back where it was a little while before.  So they cleaned up the stump, sewed it closed, and sent him home.
In time, as with all wounds, the finger healed.  But, since your great grandpa was neither lizard nor sea star (and your great grandma was NOT a gopher-let's be clear) the finger did not grow back.  So he had two thirds of his little finger.

You would think, looking at your little fingers, that that would be just fine.  I mean, what do we really use the end of our little finger for anyway?  That is what your great grandpa thought as well-until he went to itch his left ear.  And he couldn't!  So his left ear went on itching!  You see, the end of great grandpa's (my dad's) left little finger fit precisely into the itching spot of his left ear!  And he didn't think much about that until he no longer had a longer pinky!

OK-what does this have to do with gratitude?  With being thankful?  What I am learning is that sometimes we don't think of all the things-little and big- that we could be thankful for.  So we don't really know how much they mean to us, how grateful we should be for them, until they're gone.
This is true for ends of little fingers, sunny days, gentle winds, good dogs, hot water, flexible parts, grandmas and great grandpas and everything else we may take for granted.

So-take a little-or more-time this week to reflect on those things and people for which you are thankful.  Don't forget to consider the challenges of life as well, as they are especially important in shaping our character.  As you consider these blessing, find a way to express  your gratitude.  It will help your heart grow several sizes!  But it won't grow back the end of a finger.  So be sure to shut down the lawn mower before working on it!
I am so thankful for all of you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Here There Be Badgers

Vickie (Grandma) and I were invited to go on the Trek with the youth in our LDS stake early this summer.  "Trek" is where a bunch of youth, and their leaders, go on a multi-day walk, pulling handcarts, in the wilderness.  We do this for a number of reasons.  We want to have the youth experience, to a degree, what our pioneer fore-bearers did in pulling all of their possessions across the country in small handcarts.  It gives them time and experience with each other in random "families", so they have to learn to get to know and work with those outside their normal groups. And other stuff.

Well, enough background about Treks.  I'd just like to say that I am glad that Grandma went on the Trek, since that made it so I was not the oldest trekker...

The theme for this trek was to "Look In, Look Out, Look Up".  Each day emphasized one of these.  "Look In" was for introspection and to help figure out who you are.  "Look Out" was to help us remember to look at opportunities to serve those around us.  And "Look Up" was a reminder to look to the Savior for help, strength, guidance and peace as we go through life.

Each of these merits much thought and discussion.  But I will leave that for others or another time.  I want to share a few thoughts about one "Look" that was not officially part of the Trek Theme, but was a practical and necessary "Look" for this trek.

Which brings me to the topic of badgers.  Prior to this trek, I had only seen 1 badger in the wild in my many years of looking for badgers.  I am getting old enough, and said badger sighting was long enough ago  that it might have been just some random neurons firing in my brain, making me think I had actually seen one of these mythical creatures in their natural habitat.  Think about it--Have YOU ever actually seen a real-life badger?  I mean other than in the zoo, as we all know most of the animals in zoos would never make it in the wild.  That is why they are living the cushy life in the zoo.  The "badgers" in the zoo are not Real Badgers.  No-Real Badgers live outside of those places.  In other places.  Where Real Badgers live.

Well, on the trek, there were badgers.  Real Badgers.  How did I know this?  Did I actually see any Real Badgers?  I'll answer that later.  Meaning, no, I did not see any badgers, real or zoo-type, for the first 3 days of this trek.  However, I was sure that there were Badgers right from the first hour of the trek.  You may ask "How did you know there were Badgers-Real Badgers-if you didn't see them?
Well, I'll tell you how.  One of the smaller trekkers, pushing her family handcart from behind (now, that is a bit redundant, don't you think?  If she had been pushing from the front, she would have been trying to get said handcart to go backwards.  I guess she could have been pushing from the side... If the angle had been right...)  Where were we?  Oh yes, on Trek, with the Badgers (the Badgers were not officially Trekking).  That we hadn't seen--Oh, right, the small sister was pushing the handcart (you can figure out where she was in relation to the handcart, right?), Sister Edge and I were walking along the side, slightly behind, and this little Sister disappeared!  It was like she had been swallowed by the Earth!   And she sort of had!

Badgers, you see, make holes.  Big holes.  And the larger the badger, the larger the hole.  They seemed to have a penchant for digging these holes right along the route the Trekkers were Trekking.  Those pulling the handcart (I'm sure you have already figured out that these Trekkers would be in front of the handcart-in order to "pull"-right?) had a clear view of the hazards of the holes  and would nimbly step over or around them, being, for the most part, young and clever trekkers.  Those pushing (remember-they would be behind the cart... oh, I'm sure you have all this straight in your mind by now.  At least I hope you do) did not have such vision.  their gaze was fixed on the back of the cart, the contents of the cart, or the back of the cute young man/young woman in front of them pulling the cart.  As a result, they were prone to step into the Badger holes.  Some of which were made by exceptionally large Badgers!  Real Badgers!

And this small sister found an exceptionally large Badger hole.  She wasn't even looking for it.  It just appeared all of a sudden from under the moving handcart, and her first inkling of its (note the proper un-use of an apostrophe in the preceding word-ask your parents if you need to learn when to use "its" and when to use "it's"--if they don't know, then ask Grandpa-he'll make something up that sounds good) existence was when she disappeared into it's black interior.

We thought we had lost our first Trekker!  Grandma and I were a bit worried because our job was to tend to the health and first aid needs of these young people.  We were prepared for cuts, scrapes, allergies, sprained ankles, headaches, stinky feet and silly ears, but we had no first aid for Acute Badger Hole Disappearance Syndrome!  We started to get a bit worried until someone shone her flashlight down the Badger hole and we saw the reflection off this small trekker's glasses.  Whew!  What relief we felt.  After we fished her out (have you ever been fishing in a Badger hole?  We have.  For Trekkers-not Trout) with a length of strong rope, made sure that she hadn't been attacked by the exceptionally large Badger, and that she had no other injuries that needed attention, we put her in front of the handcart (where she would pull, correct?) and where she had a great view of the badger holes before she stepped into them.

Clever little trekker that she was, she immediately starting warning those behind the cart (the pushers) of upcoming badger holes.  She would sing out "Hole Right!" or "Hole Left!" or "Hole Middle!" and those pushing (behind the cart--I'm sure you have this "pushing" and "pulling" and the relative positions firmly in mind by now, don't you?) would then pay attention and not step into the Badger holes.  One difficulty was with Grandma.  Next time you see her ask her to quickly raise her left hand (or her right) sometime.  Not a pretty sight seeing a 60-something professionally educated, very intelligent, well-married and attractive woman struggle to remember which is left and which is right.  She was better off pulling than pushing.  But most everyone else, when they were paying attention (don't we end up paying more when we don't pay attention?...), were able to alert, or be alerted, to the existence of the terrors of the Badger holes.  Made by Real Badgers.

OK-the lesson here?  Yes, Look In,  Look Out and always Look Up, but also Look Down, or wherever there may be trouble coming-sometimes in the form of badger holes, sometimes in other forms that aren't so obvious, and warn your friends, siblings and those around you of the dangers you might recognize.  Don't be surprised if you have some friends that seem to want to find the Badger holes to step in, just to see how it feels. Or if they don't pay attention to your warnings.  This happens sometimes-especially with adolescents.   We did treat a good number of sprained ankles on this trek.  Those trekkers did not do so well.

As for You-You pay attention (so you don't have to pay even more when you don't) to those trying to warn you of holes and dangers they may see that you can't, since you are being so diligent with your pushing of the cart.  Your parents, grandparents, some of your teachers and your friends who are True Friends (I may tell you about some of my True Friends sometime)  are good warners.  Listen and respond like the un-knuckle heads you are.  Life goes better, and we are able to do more and find more joy when we aren't always stepping into stinkin' Badger holes, made by Real Badgers.  And before you ask, yes, Badger holes do stink.  I mean, just imagine what one would find in a Badger hole-ends of worms, remnants of Badger meals, rotting badger fur, Badger, uh, "leavings"-what becomes of the Badger meals in the end.  Or from the end. Well, you get the idea.  You should have caught a whiff of our small Trekker after her dive into the Badger hole!

And, yes, on the last day of Trek, we saw a Real Badger.  He-or it may well have been She-I don't pretend to have expertise in distinguishing Badger gender from 50 yards-was poking its badger head up out of its Badger Hole to watch us go by.  White stripes on its cheeks.  Looked kind of cute.  But I understand you wouldn't want one for a pet.  So, yes, Real Badgers do exist.  They are not mythical.  Neither are their holes.

It's been fun talking Badgers with you.  Now go kiss you Mom and Dad, tell them you love them and go to bed!  Oh yes, remember that Ratty is distantly related to Real Badgers....

Sunday, September 6, 2015

End of summer...again!

September already!  Can you believe it?  Where did it go?  Summer, I mean.
Summer brings back memories of riding my blue Schwinn tank-of-a-bike, feeling the freedom that all kids on bikes experience, trips in the station wagon (precursor to your stinkin' mini van.  Ask your parents) from here (Utah) to visit Grandma in Florida (why do kids always go to "Grandma's", never to "Grandpa's"?), digging forts in the vacant lot-holes and tunnels in the ground covered by plywood and dirt, playing "kick the can" until it got too dark to see, getting up way early to go fishing-and hunting night crawlers the night before, visiting our cousins in Roosevelt, which also involved swimming in the canal, jumping off the haystack into the canal, chasing cows, eating fresh garden stuff-tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, going to town to watch 3 movies at the theater for a quarter, getting "wild indians" at the Rexall drugstore, and, best of all, my older brother ending up in an uncovered septic hole.  I also remember long summer days of not enough to do (don't tell your parents, or they will find you something to do!), then going to bed while it was still light-and very hot-wishing I was still outside.  I think my parents put us to bed just to get us out of their hair for an hour or so before their bedtime.  Imagine that.  Kind of like sending your kids out to get in the car, then not going out yourself for a few minutes-just to enjoy a quiet house for a bit.

So, what to share on my little story place?  I thought about writing about school, but I don't want to miss summer again!  Writing about school is tempting because-
-I was good at it, even though I didn't know this at the beginning.
-I had several teachers who made me feel like I was pretty bright and could do things.
-I got better grades than my siblings, so report card day was kind of nice for me.  You ask what are "grades" and " report cards"?  Well, grades were how the teacher let your parents (and you) know how you were doing in school, and if you should plan on a life of crime or being a hobo, or if there was a chance for you to do something more.  And "report cards"?  We'll visit that again another time.

OK! Enough about school.  More later.

So, for today, how about a short story or two?

Roosevelt, Utah is in the Uintah basin, or just "the basin" for those of us who have people there.  Our mother's younger sister, Aunt Jennis, had married one of the Yack brothers of the infamous Yack Brothers Honey, and they lived in Roosevelt.  They had some acreage on the edge of town, a little house with small, cool rooms, a huge garden, a haystack, some cows (sometimes), a chicken coop and a whole different world from the one I was familiar with in South Salt Lake.

We would take the three hour trip out there several times a year-mostly always in the summer, as highway 40 was an icy death trap in the winter.  And our cars were not as reliable as what we all travel in now.  And there were no cell phones.  Kind of like living like cavemen, right?

One time, my two brothers and I, along with our cousin Jerry, were out playing army in the pasture by our aunt's home.  Did I mention that, when I was quite young, there was an outhouse (ask your parents, or look at the calendar Aunt Lindsey gave us all for Christmas) behind their home?  Well, there was, and you need to keep that fact in mind.

My older brother was always trying to be the boss when we played, and was doing so on the day in question.  He was leading us on marches.  Now, you need to realize that our generation came along shortly after World War II, and the war, along with the military was a big influence in our lives.  I still resent that my mom wouldn't let us watch "Combat" on TV...
OK-back to the story-we were in waist high alfalfa, marching here and there.  I think most of us (meaning everyone but Randy) were getting a bit tired of the marching-sounds like the real thing, don't you think?-and were hoping for a quick end.  I think I remember Randy encouraging us to step it up and get in line.  He had turned to face us to let us know our marching was not quite up to his lofty expectations.  As he turned and shouted "Forward harch" (yes, we did think that was how real soldiers said "march"), he took a step, maybe two, and disappeared!   With a splash-well, not a "splash".  More like a "splut".  Followed by weeping and wailing.

Do you remember my telling you that there was an outhouse involved?  Well, I guess that an outhouse had occupied (in the kind of recent past) that very spot where my brother had so gallantly marched.

What a stinkin' situation!  Well, I don't recall what happened next.  I assume that I, being the "good" kid of the bunch, ran back to the house to fetch a grown up or two.  I also assume that they successfully got him out of the Pit of Despair (the original one).  I do remember that my Aunt Jennis would not let him in her house until he had hosed off and left his clothes outside.

I also remember a couple of other things-at least I think I do.  I think I thought it was kind of amusing.  I am sure that I had a few chuckles over my dear brother's poopy dilemma.  I also kind of think that, somehow, our cousin had set my brother up to take that final step.  I remember some encouragement from him to have us march in a certain direction.  Our cousin did play some interesting pranks on us when we stayed out in Roosevelt.  Ask me about the glowing wolf's head sometime.

What lessons did I learn from my brother's unfortunate step into the pit?   Well, "look before you leap" or before you "forward harch".  And-be kind to those following you so they may not lead you astray from behind.  And mostly-that I'm glad that there were not lasting injuries involved for my brother.  That way we can still chuckle at this little episode.  If he had been seriously injured, then it would be difficult to find it amusing.

But he does still smell a bit ripe at times...

Good night.

Maybe we need to talk about Florida adventures next time.  And I'm not talking Disney World.  More like using the little Yankee boys as  gator bait.  We'll see.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Milestones

Summer is sliding by quickly. I have been pondering on topics worthy of posting, have had some partial thoughts, but, as is evident, have had nothing that I actually put on this spot.  So, with that in mind, I will share a few of these partial thoughts.  Is that what comes from being a half-wit?

A long, long time ago, in a temple not too far away, my Vickie and I were married.  Forty years ago.  Now, that may seem like a long time to you youngsters (and to Vickie as well, I am sure), but it is not so long in the eternal perspective of things.  In fact, we are looking forward to an eternity together.  So forty years is nothing.  But it sure has seemed like something!

My older brother, Randy turned 65 this week.  It is hard for me to think that I have a sibling old enough for Medicare!  I went up to his birthday celebration and spent a good deal of it visiting with my cousin and her husband.  Her mother, my aunt Mary, will turn 101 next month.

Vickie, earlier this year, got a notice and catalog in the mail from her work.  She has now worked for the same health care company for 40 years!  And she hasn't been fired even once!  I think she needs to retire.  Her pension now would pay her most of what she is making.  She would not have to work on a crazy labor and delivery floor several midnight shifts each week.  But, she says she needs to work for a couple more years.  I can't talk sense into her.  You give it a try.  A selfish note-she has been working 3 years longer than I have, so I have to work 3 years beyond her retirement.  And I am getting older and more tired some days.  Encourage her to give me a break by stopping soon.

One more-earlier this year-I think it was in early spring-I was out for my morning bike ride and noticed that my bike computer was going berserk.  I watched as it cycled through several screens, including one that looked like a birthday cake (it was not my birthday), screaming to get my attention.  My first thought was that it was time to get a new cycle computer, as this one was obviously dying a silly death.  Then I looked closer at the small screen.  It was celebrating the fact that I had logged 25000 miles on the computer.

OK-something that may not seem to be related at all (imagine that on this site...)

I was working on trimming and chipping dead wood out of the locust tree by the driveway a couple of weeks ago.  The little girl next door was out visiting as I was working, as is her habit.  She had a little shovel and decided she was going to work also.  So she started digging a hole in her flower bed.  I'm not sure if she intended to plant anything or was just digging for the fun of it.  As I turned off the (very loud) chipper, she asked "neighbor, how long have I been working?".  She always calls me neighbor.  I'm not sure if I should tell her to call me "Rick" or "Mr. Edge" (nope on that one) or ...  I think "neighbor" is just fine.  Kind of neighborly actually.  Anyway, I told her that she had been working for about a minute and a half.  She stopped, wiped the sweat from her brow and thought for a moment.  Then she said "that must be a very long time, because I am really tired!"

As I look at some of these "milestones"-40 years of marriage, living to be old enough for Medicare, or living to be 101, pedaling a bike for a few miles, working at the same place for 40 years-I start to think about enduring.  More than that, I think about enduring well.  I know I have had times in life when I felt like I had been  working for "a very long time, because I am really tired!".  From an eternal perspective, we haven't-any of us-been toiling beyond our ability to endure.  The minute-and-half tasks may well seem like a "very long time", but we can get through them.  And we can learn, grow, and find joy in the enduring.  And that is a topic for another day.  Maybe I can remember a story to tell with it.

Final thought-I was not able to come up with the right token gift for my sweetie for our 40th.  But, I am still working on it.  I figure if I find just the right thing by her birthday in late November, it will work for both.  Wish me success.  I know she already has everything she wants (mainly me) and she is not into material things.  Maybe the perfect dog-a "Scooter" with less prey drive.  We'll see.  Let me know if any of you have wonderful ideas.




Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rescued!

The LBB
I am what is often called a "little brown bird".  I think I heard myself referred to as a "wren" one time.  But I don't really remember.  My brain is just a little bird brain, after all.
Speaking of small brains, mine does just fine for what I am to do.  I fly wonderfully, move with my friends a long way, it seems to me, when it becomes too hot or too cold.
I can also catch bugs. Spiders, flies, moths, generic bugs-I pick them up off the ground, off the branches of trees and shrubs and even in mid-air-did I tell you that I'm a great flier?
I protect my nest from all intruders, pecking with my sharp beak and flapping my mighty (if quite small) wings to drive off even larger birds.
And I can Sing!  I think  you can find recordings of my wonderful singing-or of some of my cousins'-if you try to find them.  Or you can listen for me in the mountain forest areas or even your backyard!
Back to my smallish-but perfectly capable and serviceable-brain.  You see, I am what they call "hard wired" for certain things.  Did I mention that I am a fabulous hunter of bugs?  Well, I am.  And when I am on course to pick a juicy moth out of the air, nothing can deter me!  Within a few flaps of my wonderful wings and a quick flick of my tail to zig and zag to follow a moth, my marvelous pointy beak will snap shut on the tasty morsel and-- Gulp!  Snack time!  Or, if there are little ones in the nest, I may take it back to feed them.  You should see me in action.  Quite impressive, if I do say so.  Not to bad-mouth moths (actually, they are not bad in the mouth at all...), but they really haven't figured out the flying thing very well.  They fly kind of jerky, up and down, side to side-and the slightest little breeze blows them off course.  Sometimes this makes it so they aren't as easily snapped up as at other times.

Which brings me back to the small (but quite serviceable-most of the time-) brain of mine.

When it was light before the dark we last had (would you call that "yesterday"?  I don't quite understand this concept of "days".  But I can fly and catch bugs). It was a warm day with a brilliantly blue sky with some puffy clouds, but no rain clouds.  A wonderful day for flying!
Where was I?.. Oh yes, I was chasing this very promising fat moth.  I had flicked and flittered several times (these are technical LBB -"Little Brown Bird"-flying terms.  No time to go into detailed explanation for you non-flyers), and I could smell and taste the fear coming off this fluttering (did I mention that moths don't really "fly"-flutter is the best they can do) snack.  No babies in the nest to take it back to.  They had already flown off on their own.  So this tasty treat was all for me!
Then, as my beak was closing around this fluttering food, there was the slightest shift in the breeze.  No problem for me.  I am, after all, quite a flyer. The moth shifted down and over-I'm sure it didn't intend to, but, hey-no problem for me.  Even though we were quite close to the top of one of the cabins in my yard, my skillful flying allowed me to grab the moth in mid-shift in the air! Another bug beginning to fuel me!
And then--Bang!  And all went dark.

The Grandpa
It had been a busy morning. It was the first day in a long time that we didn't have rain.  Grandma and I had come up to the cabin the day before.  We had slept well (important when you are a kid and when you get older) and had gotten up early to take the tandem (ask your parents, but you really should already know words like this one) kayak down to the lake.  Our purpose was to see if we could get the Scooter Dog into the kayak with us without him jumping out, slipping his collar or biting an innocent passerby (he has talent for all of these things-what a dog!).  Since this is not a story about Scooter, all I will say is that we paddled every arm of every arm of the reservoir, and took Scooter for a little walk in the middle of the paddle.
So, having worked hard to keep the kayak going straight (Grandma was in the back for a while...), and being an old man, I was tired when we got back to the cabin.  And what do tired old men do?  Correct!  They take naps.  So I stretched out in my favorite posture on the couch to catch a much-anticipated snooze.  I pretended to read for a few minutes-just to impress Grandma-but was soon in the arms of Morpheus.
I was peacefully catching z's when--Bang!, rattle rattle.  I jumped up from the couch (yes, you may laugh at the idea of Granpa "jumping" in any manner) and looked first for Scooter.  Scooter has been know to chew things.  Mainly shoes.  My shoes.  My work shoes...  So I thought maybe he had started chewing other things-like the bumper on the car, or the chain on the porch swing.  Something metal.
But, Scooter was dog-napping (not to be confused with "dognapping".  I don't even think a dog could snatch up another dog and hold them for ransom.  Good luck with that if you snatch up the Scoots...), and he had not made the noise I heard.  Or thought I heard.
Since I could find nothing wrong, I went about some chores for awhile.  I was outside working on something-Grandpas are good at not remembering sometimes-and then came back in the cabin.  When I came in, I heard a faint "peck-peck-peck" on what sounded like glass.  I looked around at all the windows in the room, but could find no source of the pecking.

The LLB
Yikes!  (Did you know that the word "yikes" originated within the Bird Kingdom?  I will try to remember to tell you about this another time.)  Where was I?  Oh, yes-
Yikes!  "Bang!"  I was just shutting my beak around a tasty critter, then it was dark.  And I flew into something solid.  And I started to fall, so I tried to fly away.  But I could not see where "away" was.  I could not see anything!  It was dark!  And my head, and its perfectly serviceable, if small, brain hurt. So I kind of flew where I could.  My wings hit solid black in every direction, and I could not flap them quickly or strongly enough to go Up.  Up is almost always safe (unless there is a hawk above you-another story for another time.  Suffice it to say that I am still here.  But so is the hawk).  But I could not go Up.  So I ended up fluttering-almost as clumsily as a stupid moth-Down.
I was sure I was doomed.  I landed in a heap in a soft bed of-----I don't know what.  It smelled like the smoke that came from the tubes on tops of the cabins in my yard, but it wasn't warm.  It did make me want to sneeze.  I make the cutest LBB sneeze sound.  I was in---something.  And I couldn't find my way Up.  I couldn't breath as deeply as I needed, and it got worse when I flapped and flittered about.  So I tried not to.  I really did.  But it was so hard to not try to get Out!  But-I couldn't get out.  I was trapped and did not know what to do.  Being the brave LBB that I am, but also being very focused, I decided that I would not panic, but I would also not stop trying to get out or fly Up.
There was one side of the box I was in that I could see through.  But it did not go Up or Out-not out into the fresh air and blue sky.  But I could see out of the box. So I started pecking with my wonderful, sharp, strong, pointy beak.  If I could pull bugs out of trees, surely my beak could get me Out!
But it couldn't.  No chips came off whatever I was pecking, no holes appeared.  But I Did Not Stop Trying.  So, I kept pecking.  "Rat a tat tat", rest.  "Rat a tat tat", rest.  I would keep that up until, well, until I couldn't!  Simple as that.  I Would Get Out.

The Grandpa (with a cameo by The Grandma)
After I looked at all the windows, my large (but not always as serviceable as I would like) brain told me that there was another pane of glass in the room.  I looked at our wood burning stove.  Our cold wood burning stove.  Remember-it was a warm day, so no fire in the stove.
I saw a LBB flitting about in the stove.  He would peck "rat-a-tat-tat", rest (sneeze-what a cute little bird sneeze), "rat-a-tat-tat", rest, sneeze, repeat.  He was relentless.   And cute.
Grandma was sitting outside in the sunshine, so I called her to come in.  I told her there was something in the stove.  She stopped when I said this, one foot in the doorway, and would not come in, thinking a rat or mouse had gotten in the stove.  I assured her it was the cutest LBB, so she came and took a look.  We quickly opened the front door wide, then opened the front of the stove, hoping the little fellow would safely fly out.

The LBB
As I was pecking out of the box in which I was trapped, I saw through the glass two giants come toward the box I was in.  I am familiar with Humans, as I see them often around the cabins in my yard, but I had never been trapped in a box with them in the same area. They were so ginormous up close like this! I could have been scared, but I determined to be brave.  So I kept pecking. Until the front of the box opened!  I was free!  I flew as swiftly as I could toward the Out!  "Bang!"  Something was keeping me from going Out!  I was again dazed and found myself on the floor.  I jumped up and flew toward Out in the other direction.  "Bang!!"

The Grandpa
So, I guess my large brain was not quite large enough!  I should have opened the windows and pulled the screens off.  That tough LBB had flow-quite rapidly-into windows on either side of the room and was now standing (sitting) on the floor.  I don't know how he managed to stay upright.  He was closest to the double doors out the side of the cabin.  We opened them both and I slowly approached the LBB, very slowly reached down toward him and...

The LBB
Things were spinning, my little brain hurt.  I was standing-but just barely.  I couldn't quite remember what, where, who.  But I did see the larger human sneaking up on me-reaching toward me.  Was he going to crush me and swallow me like a bug?  I let his hand get withing two feather widths, then took off in a powerful launch!  Except it wasn't.  So powerful, that is.  I managed to jump (but wasn't able to fly) and hop to the other side of what looked like a thick tree branch.  I knew I wasn't Out or Up, but had no more ability to move.

The Grandpa
What a tough little character!  But he did not move far.  A couple of feet.  I took several small, stealthy steps (yes, I can move stealthily when called for), slowly reached down and closed my hand around the little bundle of feathers.

The LBB
Yikes!  I tried, but my smallish brain and my amazing little flying body wouldn't communicate.  I told it to fly, launch, or at least hop-or even peck!  But it wouldn't.  I could see the huge hand reaching to me to crush me.  I could, at least, look the terrible giant in the eye as he squeezed the air out of me, crunching my tiny bones before popping me into his monstrous mouth.

The Granpa
Poor little guy!  He couldn't seem to move, and, as I closed my hand around his feathered little body, I could feel his stout little heart beating a very rapid staccato.  I very gently picked him up, expecting the sharp pointed beak to jab my hand.  I mentally prepared to not squeeze the little guy when he pecked me.  But he didn't.  He did look me in the eye, however, as if to say "See how brave I am!"

The LBB
Well-as you can probably guess-the Grandpa (that's what the other human called this one.  Do you think humans will ever learn to properly sing?) picked me up.  It took all I could do to not drive my sharp, pointy beak into his hand, but it did not seem like he was trying to crush me!
He picked me up and gently put me on a wooden post that was Out!  And I could see Up!  How wonderful!
But-I did not have the energy to even think about flying.  I was still in reach of these humans.  Would they come back to me when they needed a small snack?  The smaller one ("Vick", I think) went by me several times, but did not try to harm me.  I don't know how long I sat there, but, after the sun had moved across the sky just a little way, I had energy enough to launch and fly!  And a sweeter flight there has never been!  I was much too tired to do anything spectacular, but I could feel the wind in my feathers and I could see the Sun and Up! And I was Out!
I will try to remember (smallish brain, right?) to sing outside these human's cabin more often-my sweetest songs.

The Grandpa
The LBB sat for thirty or forty minutes, according toe Grandma, before he was able to take off.  I do hope he has eaten a few bugs and is feeling better.  He has had a much-too-exciting day.  Talk about an adventure!.  Flying into the small opening at the top of our chimney, ending up in our wood stove for an hour or so, banging into the windows and being carried by a giant!  What a tale he'll have!   If his smallish brain remembers.
The birdsong seemed to be sweeter that afternoon.

The LBB
I did sing that evening of my adventure and the courage I found.   I sang more loudly of the kindness of the humans kindness to release me from my doom and to no make a snack out of me.  And I sang of the wonderfulness of being Out and being able to fly Up.