A new insight

May 19, 2019

First off, I love the new Come Follow Me Study program in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today, I was very touched when a thought that lingered in my mind from Sacrament meeting attached to a question in Sunday School.

At the end of our Sacrament meeting today, the Bishop took the last few minutes to give us one of the non-negotiables for his family that he wants us to incorporate ward-wide. He pleaded with ward families follow his advice. He asked that electronic devices be kept out of our children’s bedrooms. He asserted that very little good comes of kids having devices in private spaces and much harm can come.

I 1000% agree. Keeping electronics and televisions in public places might be the policy that saves our loved ones tremendous heartache and pain. We didn’t have game systems or devices in our home and I think that was one of the best decisions ever. (We do now have a Wii.) But we didn’t pick up on the computer in a public place fast enough and paid the price.

Now, there are a multitude of devices that are easily carried to a private place. It takes far more diligence on the part of interested parents to protect and help their children avoid the heartache, disappointment and failures that can result.

But I glanced around the chapel and realized that many of those listening had not lived long enough to know how vital our Bishop’s council may be. We sometimes hear that messages from Church leaders and think of an excuse or special reason why it doesn’t apply to us or why we can’t make that change. I hope and pray that the beloved members of our ward and all those who read this blog hearken to this good man’s council and make that one simple change. It may save your child!

Then in Sunday School, we were discussing the rich young man who came to ask Jesus “What lack I yet?” Jesus told him to keep all the commandments. The rich young man said, “I already do. Is there anything else?” Jesus told him to go and sell all that he had and give to the poor and come follow him. The young man went away sorrowing.

As is usually the case in our Sunday school class, many of the ward members had great insight into the situation and why it’s in the scriptures in three places. “Was it really the riches that were the problem or merely the reliance on them? Was this advice for the young man specificially because Jesus recognized his one failing?

Heidi Balderee commented that for Abraham, the “Big Ask” was to sacrifice his son. To the rich young man, he was asked to give up his riches. Then Heidi posed the question, ‘What is each of our Big Asks?”

What is my ‘Big Ask?’ What is the hardest thing I could be asked to endure or give up or change for the sake of becoming a true or truer disciple? I think it’s going to be something a little different for each of us. Leisure time? Family ties? Reputation? Popularity? Entertainment? Physical pleasures? Time? Influence? Social status?

So our Bishop asked us to make a change that seems small to me. But are electronics or popularity with our kids the “Big Ask” that cause us to ‘go away sorrowing? We know that apostles and prophets have warned us many times of similar things. It’s not just pornography, but it’s pressure to be popular on social media. It’s time robber games and puzzles. It’s inane or impersonal communications that replace healthy interactions, etc, etc, Most of us recognize the dangers of too much exposure, but we don’t realize that it’s been too much or of a harmful sort until the damage is done and the consequences descend.

“Whether by my own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” D&C 1:38 What does He ask by the voice of his servants that will cause us to “sorrow” instead of rejoice with gratitude?

It has certainly given me a lot to think about this afternoon.

Good-bye to Jiggs

May 5, 2019

He was Jiggy until he got into high school and felt he needed a more dignified moniker. He became Jiggs: my next older brother, three years older than I.

His given name was Hal. Hal Andrew Mitchell. But it always seemed like an affectation when he introduced himself that way.

Ours was a stressful relationship for much of my life. Mom always said it was because I displaced him as the youngest in the family, but I think it was more than that. My two oldest brothers were always best buddies, stellar atheletes and students. Jiggs was the third son and my father’s namesake. He was a good student, but never in the running for valedictorian. He was good, but not as exceptional as the older two. He didn’t realize that he was exceptionally intelligent until he was an adult. He was also an outstanding athelete, playing defense on the high school football team and even making the JV BYU team. But he shone brightest as a wrestler, even earning a scholarship to BYU. Our family, especially our Mom, had always revered football players and he wasn’t as much in the limelight as the eldest had been.

When I was born, Dad said to Mom, “You finally got your girl.” But what did that imply to the older brothers, especially the darling boy who was no longer the baby? Had Mom been yearning for a girl all along?

I think, as my sister Mary expressed it, Jiggs was looking for respect. As a young child, he didn’t know how to earn it with such stiff competition in my two oldest brothers and so he tried to extract it from the younger, weaker sisters. But giving in to that impulse left him feeling guilty and sometimes depressed.

Jiggy teased and sometimes even tortured me. The darkest time between us was probably when I was 11-13. His name for me was Fat-n-ugly and he applied it liberally. To me, he and his friends were glamorous and mature. I grew so self-conscious that I could hardly function. I remember wishing that giant sacks that would cover every inch of my developing body would come into fashion.

Through our teen years, thing got better between us. At the stake dances, if he saw me not dancing, he’d ask me to dance. I was so pleased to have him ask me! He generally treated me with courtesy. My school friends all thought he was very attractive.

I remember one day when I was a high school sophomore and he was a senior. We had a wrestling pep rally during the last 45 minutes of school that day. Jiggs was the star of the wrestling team and when he walked into the assembly in his wrestling penny, an audible gasp of admiration rose from the female students. One of my friends said “OOH la la! You have to introduce me!” Another girl nearby said, “I think I just became a fan of wrestling.” He looked like Atlas with broad, muscular shoulders and a trim waist. I always thought (and think) all my brothers are handsome.

I told him about it later and he seemed so surprised. I said “Didn’t you hear what they were yelling?”

“I was too nervous to pay any attention to it. Are you SURE they were talking about me?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” I had the strange mix of feeling proud and embarassed at the same time. It was wierd to think of girls looking at him THAT way.

That was a window into his psyche that I had never seen through. He didn’t know how desirable he was. He later told me that he struggled with very low self-esteem and self-doubt throughout high-school.

Most people that knew him well, knew him to be exceedingly frank. One night on the way home from a stake dance, I was sitting in the middle of the front seat with him in the passenger seat and a few older kids in the back. He asked me if I had enjoyed the dance. I said I had. He asked me if I danced with anyone I particularly liked. I answered, “no one in particular.”

“That’s good,” he answered. “Because your breath smells like horse crap.”

Of course my mind raced to remember who I had danced with. But it was not surprising, considering that I always fasted the day of a dance so I wouldn’t look fat. I was 5’6″ and 124 pounds. The “Fat-n-ugly” image hadn’t completely worn off.

At least we didn’t fight anymore. He took to calling me by a gentler nicname. When I was very little, he called me ‘Buffy’, and then “Bethy” and eventually all my older brothers took to calling me ‘Beh’ (Beth was much too much of a mouthful.)

He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico. It was a difficult, yet life changing and self-defining experience for him. He learned to love the people he served and he had great success. He also learned what it meant to to love selflessly as he worked and lived with his companions.

He was the king of nicknames. His youngest son, Patrick’s nickname is ‘Lavern” (?????) and his second son Ben’s nickname went from Ben to Bean to Frijole, (Spanish for ‘bean’.)

Jiggs married a smart, saintly woman named Julie. As intense as he has always been, it can’t have been easy for her. But she is steadfast, faithful and loving. I think he has always realized that he had extremely good judgement when he courted and caught her. She is a beloved prize of a woman.

I think they had been married only 5 years when they had four boys, age four and under. After the twins, number 3 and 4, they had a short break while Jiggs finished med school and then they added two more boys and two girls to their family.

Jiggs decided to become a doctor early in his college career. He buckled down as a student and earned his way to success. He was a cautious, thoughtful physicican that always seemed to have his patient’s best interest and well-being at heart. He was interested in getting at the causes of illness, not just symptoms.

Success seemed added to success. As his family grew, his own thirst for understanding grew. He loved to study and learn. He searched the scriptures and a wide range of books for truth and understanding.

He was always intense. But just as he had long ago applied himself to persecuting his sisters, he applied himself to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ. In the cases where he knew he had wronged someone or as in my case, where there was still underlying tension, he actively strove to heal those relationships.

He spoke often of what it meant to be a true disciple of Christ. He made changes in his approach. He began calling me regularly, just to chat or to discuss something (like Americian History) of mutual interest. When two of my granddaughters had life-threatening medical problems within 9 months of each other, he called regularly to check on their progress and follow their treatment.

Julie was in Virginia helping with new grandbaby, number 19 for them, and couldn’t get ahold of Jiggs. (She calls him Hal.) Even on Easter, he didn’t answer his phone. She called the neighbors on Monday morning and asked them to go check at their house in Oregon to see if he was all right.

They could see him sitting on the couch and called the Paramedics. Other neighbors had seen him running on Saturday, the day before Easter, in the early afternoon. He had been wearing a weighted vest.
He was still wearing the weighted vest, but his spirit had flown to heaven some time on Saturday afternoon. Other physcians in the family conclude that he overstressed his heart and a blood clot broke free, causing a heart attack.

Several years ago, he headed the hospice program for his county in eastern Utah. As part of that, he visited the dying and their caregivers. He often interviewed the dying to ascertain their expectations and what they thought about as the moment of death grew close. He told me about one woman who was a devout Christian. Her caregiver reported that as death drew near, she began to see angels. She saw family, smiling and welcoming. Then, she said “I see two hands, reaching out to me.” She paused and added. “The hands are pierced.”

The caregiver told her to take the hands and a moment later, she died.

Jiggs would have been surprised, I think, to see those pierced hands. He certainly wasn’t expecting it. He had gone on the Keto diet to help control his type-2 Diabetes and he took medicine for high cholesterol, but he exercised diligently and had lost most of the weight he needed to.

Jiggs was always full of questions. Now he has his answers. His life was in order.

We pray for Julie to have peace. She knows he’s fine. After the funeral, she said, “He’s having a great ol’ reunion on his side of veil, so he shouldn’t mind that we’re having one too.”

Five of his six sons have chosen medical careers. His daughers have grown into educated, righteous women.

Best of all, my brother is experiencing the full force of our Heavenly Father’s love. He finally comprehends the intimacy of the Savior’s atonement and nature of unconditional and complete love our Father in Heaven has for each of us.

He told my older brother Mark recently that when he stood before God that he could honestly say he had done his best. I believe him. Jesus will make up the difference.

His body is buried in the Orem Utah Cemetery. Mt. Timpanogus overlooks the green, quiet place. Pear blossoms drifted down over his flag-draped coffin.

Enjoy the peace, Jiggs. When I see you again, we will both be whole.

A happy/sad farewell.

March 26, 2019

Dave Rose, the BYU basketball coach retired today. This is the first year of his 14 years as head coach that he didn’t (quite) win 20 games.

I’m sad. Truthfully, I don’t care much about wins and losses as I do about the human impact that those numbers make. Rose is a classy guy. I have always known I could trust him to represent my beloved BYU with honor and integrity. I knew that when refs made grievious errors in calling a game, he’d stand up for our guys and yet he wouldn’t disgrace himself, the team or BYU by his behavior.

While it’s true that I’ve seen him almost purple with anger when refs seemed to be flagrantly unfair, he generally got a hold of himself and made the best of it.

I prayed for him when he battled pancreatic cancer.

Now he’s on to pursuits nearer and dearer to his heart than basketball. In his press conference he said his new team is his family. I imagine he’s ready to serve them and God in new and exciting ways.

We wish him well. May the pillars of the man, his body, mind and heart sustain him in joy.

Dave Rose Retires from BYU

The Good and Great in America

March 24, 2019

I feel so grateful to all those who have honored my granddaughter Kate by giving blood!

I wrote about my little granddaughter’s stroke and subsequent open heart surgery. Kate came the surgery with incredible ease and wonderful results. But the blessings didn’t stop there!

A lady in their Ward, (church congregation) took Lindsay, Kate’s Mom’s idea to give blood to help some others who are in need and organized a blood drive.  Here’s the link the story.

https://www.kalb.com/content/news/Donate-for-Kate-aims-to-help-families-in-need-507574671.html  (watch the news clip)

The reporter left before the blood drive ended! That day, they collected 72 unites of blood and three of plasma. People in other parts of the country have also donated in her honor and the total is currently over 100 unites of donated blood products.

While Kate doesn’t need any more blood, there has been a huge shortage of blood and plasma across the USA lately. It’s such a kind act to give of your time and self to help someone else!

If you have a heart to donate and are healthy, you can find a donation location by going on the Red cross website.

Here’s the Red Cross link for your convenience. https://www.redcross.org/

Kate with her Mom, Lindsay Stephenson

Predawn thoughts on the history of the Earth

March 21, 2019

March moon over the Wasatch mts

Perhaps it was the beautiful, soft moon last night. Perhaps it was the wind and rain on my window in the predawn hours. I awoke in the dark, my mind already active and exploring the past, recent and distant.

I’m preparing for an Americana presentation on Monday when I’m going to use a new Powerpoint picture slide show. I was thinking about the Badlands of South Dakota and how rich they are in Paleontological history. Not only are there remains of saber-toothed cats, but dog-sized, three-toed horses. There is evidence of a huge array of extinct creatures from a habitat obliterated by a massive volcanic explosion.

My readers are thinkers. You know that mental-spiritual zone first thing in the morning when your mind is clear and open, influenced by dreams and and fresh from rest. I lay still in my bed, thinking of the vast array of vanished life. Yet the scriptures say that the Fall of Adam introduced death into the world. How can that be?

It seems to me that time is culprit. Our human insistance on time binding our understanding causes confusion.  The little corner of my mind in conscious use cannot comprehend a sphere where time does not apply. But God declares that He is not subject to it. The past, present and future are all one to Him.

Time explains the need or purpose of planting a garden for Adam and Eve. I think it was a protected sphere, a realm where food grew spontaneously and animals ate only the food that sprang from the earth. There was no aging or death because within the realm of the Garden, time did not exist. Adam and Eve went naked because there were no seasons to mark time’s passage and they were never uncomfortable. God visited them and in many ways, they dwelt in God’s timeless realm, innocent and immature. Perhaps the reason they could not have chilldren within the Garden is because without time, they could not mature, mentally, or physically.

But perhaps time did exist outside the garden. Species rose and fell and nature struggled according to natural law, time and chance.  While Adam and Eve had no sense of time passing, and indeed, perhaps time didn’t “pass” for them at all.   Outside the Garden, millions of years may have “passed” unaffected by the Garden. And what was the nature of the Garden itself? Could the two realms cooexist in the same place at the same time? Did God use the word “Garden” to indicate a Paradisiacal  realm unexplainable to a mortal mind?

So when Eve and Adam made a choice to act contrary to the rule God had given them, they knew that they were no longer compatible with the realm in which they lived. Perhaps the were “cast out” because when they lost their innocence by acting contrary to God’s instructions, it became impossible for them to live in a realm contrary to their new nature.

God and science don’t contradict each other. We know that God can not lie. He explains the Creation of the world in super-simple terms that his children can understand. Science hints that there is much more to know about the process. I believe God left all the evidence of vanished ecosystems to help us recognize how little we know of His ways and to turn to Him, learn from Him, to wonder and to stretch.

Throw time out of the mix in the protected state or “garden” where Adam and Eve were placed until they chose to leave. Include time in the natural world where dinosaurs finished eating eachother and then were obliterated by some natural event and were replaced by three-toed-tiny horses and it all makes sense.

Another morning, when my mind is not yet muddied by the daily worries, I intend to contemplate the ramifications of the Great Flood. Why did men live ten times longer before the flood than after the flood? Was it a necessary “baptism” to remake the world where the children of God could live in the natural world: a final blending of the two realms where man can live both spiritually and physically successfully? Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps it’s too late in the morning to figure that one out!

moon rising over Provo Canyon

Lightning does strike twice

March 15, 2019

With so many things to be thankful for, I can hardly pass the opportunity to thank the hundreds of people who have expressed their love and concern through our second life-threatening ailment with one of our grandkids. This time, it was our six-year-old spunky little Kate.

Kate is the precocious little girl that started talking, saying insightful and hilarious things  long before her second birthday. She’s capable of being a little dramatic sometimes, too, so her parents, Daniel and Lindsay, didn’t think too much of her telling them that she was too tired to finish a one mile walk around the neighborhood. Her complaint worried them slightly when they went overnight camping about a month ago and Kate couldn’t race Lindsay back to the campsite. It was only about 60 yards. Even then, they merely wondered if she was getting sick.

Then, 16 days ago, Kate had a sharp headache as she was getting ready to go to kindergarten. She said she was dizzy and was seeing double. Lindsay looked at her and noticed that one eye had a sluggish pupil and wasn’t tracking with the other eye.

She took her to the doctor and the N.P. told her to see an opthamologist. The opthamologist immediately referred her to a neurologist. Back to the Doctor’s office for a referral where the M.D. examined her closely and sent her straight to the hospital for an MRI and contacted the Neurologist.

The next morning, (two weeks ago today) the Neurologist came into Kate’s hospital room and confirmed that Kate had had a stroke. They would immediately begin tests to find the cause but the Dr. warned them that it could be weeks before they knew the cause.

It was less than two hours. A cardiologist told her parents that he had never heard anything like Kate’s heart. They investigated further and found a large myxoma tumor filling one ventricle of her heart. They beleive that bloodclots were forming on the myxoma, breaking off and had caused the stroke. The neurologist eventually told them that there was evidence in her brain that this stroke was not her first one.

The hospital flew Kate to New Orleans where there was a team of Doctors and equipment to perform open-heart surgery on a six-year-old. There was no room on the plane for either of her parents and it was Mardi Gras weekend, so traffic was horrendous.

Jeff and I left immediately and (Jeff ) drove through the night to be on hand to take care of Kate’s little brothers so Daniel and Lindsay could both be with Kate as she underwent her ordeal.

Kate showing off her IV the night before surgery.Already the effects of the stroke have pretty well resolved themselves. 

All of us were a little worried about 13 month old Henry. He wasn’t completely weaned and is sometimes a little clingy. But in another tender mercy, Henry accepted my care (and even  the sippy cup) and affection happily and was remarkably easy to care for.

Add to the chaos, Kate’s brother Andy was turning four on the day of the surgery. He had been counting down the days for MONTHS, and now, everyones prayers, attention, fasting and concern was turned on Kate. Well, not quite everyone. When the families in their church family there in Alexandria found out Andy had a birthday that day, they dropped by bringing presents for him, cupcakes, balloons and playmates. I made him a “digger truck” cake, (it pleased him, but it certainly wasn’t anything to enter in the fair,)  Of course Daniel and Lindsay promised that they would celebrate again when they got home. I think it’s safe to say that Andy had the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!

The myxoma was approximately two inches by one inch. The ventrical was already enlarged to function around it. The cardiologist carved out some extra flesh to ensure that the myxoma doesn’t come back.

The next day, Kate was up and walking around.

The day after that she spent her time coloring

The doctors sent her home on Thursday because she was doing so well, they had no reason to keep her.

She showed off her 5 inch incision. There were small bruises on her wrist, arm, neck and ankle where the heart-lung-bypass machine and IV’s were hooked up.

That night, she asked for some Tylenol for the pain.

That was the last pain killer she has had. Gifts, flowers, treats, coloring materials of every variety, a zoo of stuffed animals and hundreds of kind notes and cards flooded into their Louisiana home.

We’d been there just a week and half, but there was no good reason to stay any longer. Kate needed little special care and we became guests instead of helpers.  We’re going on a fancy trip with them next month and so we will see them again very soon. The doctors clearned Kate for the cruise and now we’re hoping that they’ll give the OK for her to even go on the waterslide. It seems as though she’ll  better than 100%!

Her mother posted on Facebook that she took the kids to the zoo 9 days post op and had to remind Kate not to run. She can’t go back to school for another week and is livng it up.

Maybe I should capitalize LIVING!

Though all of this, once again, I am humbled and rejoice in the outpouring of love and faith that has come to us via Kate.  (The prison warden from the prison where Daniel is a psychologist sent a card and stuffed bear with the note, “Recovery starts Now! –The Warden.”  Not every six year-old has open heart surgery and not every six year olds gets a personal note from her daddy’s prison!

On a more thoughtful note, I stand all amazed that our loving Heavenly Father allows so many of his children to participate in His miracles. Even the doctors, who began training many years before Kate was born, learned to participate in miracles. Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first surgeon to perform cardiac surgery on child. He prepared the way for Kate’s miracle. The nurses and doctors and researchers also participated.

I have no idea how many people fasted and prayed for Kate. But EVERYONE who did (and does) participates in a miracle.

I don’t know what’s next for us. But I thank God for this miracle and for the faith of all those who offered it yet again for some that I love.

This is five days after Kate’s open heart surgery. Andy looks a little like the cat that ate the canary, don’t you think?

 

The best part of the Story

February 17, 2019

 

I have totally neglected my blog, but I feel the pull to return to it. The last post had my little granddaughter Gracie in the hospital. She declinedsteadily until doctors decided she needed to be mediflighted to Cincinatti to prepare for the bone marrow transplant.

Little McCoey flew out to be with Jeff and me while his family was in chaos. He was such a little angel, it was incredible. (I hear he saved up all the naughtiness he didn’t spend here to pour out on his parents’ heads when he got home after three weeks.)

So Walt flew with her, since Tricia was nursing Carina and couldn’t be separated. Tricia also caught a cold and couldn’t follow Gracie until she got over it.

But then the miracles we had all been praying for began pouring in. As soon as Gracie got to Cincinatti, her new doctors re-ran the tick panel. They all knew that tick panels are notorious for false results when taken too early. She had already had the whole panel, but this second time, LO! She had indeed been infected with a tick-born disease. (Not anything I had heard of.) But that infection was easily treated with antibiotics. As soon as they began the appropriate antibiotics for the infection, the HLH receded until it went away on its own. So the chemo had fought it off long enough for the tick panel to come back with accurate results.  Ironically, she never got any chemo or other treatment in Cincinatti, other than the appropriate antibiotics.

Doctors do not believe that there is any significant chance of recurrance.

Of course the steriods and chemo do have side effects. Grace had been sick for so long that she was left weak and with dramatic weight gain. Now, almost 6 months later, she’s back to her normal weight and is getting strong, too.

Before the events, she had been non-verbal. Now she’s quite a little chatterbox.  She’s thriving and happy, though she has developed a penchant for coloring on things she should not.  But I’m sure that every little naughty thing she does creates a dilemma. How blessed we are that she’s here to be naughty! (Of course, she’s not coloring on MY walls!)

Tricia missed Thomas and Katie’s wedding because Grace was in the hospital. But all seven of our children were in the temple with us for the first time at Chris’s and Lexi’s wedding. I truly felt that I could die that day with no regrets.

The Bowers family five months after Gracie (center front)  came home from the hospital at last.

Thomas and Katie Stephenson

Chris and Lexi Stephenson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good things are happening with my writing, too. But more on that SOON! Lots of things are “in the works,” but I’m still waiting to see how events will unfold.

Grace causes all other concerns to fade.

July 10, 2018

My two youngest sons are getting married this summer. Thomas is marrying Katie on July 28 in the LDS Draper temple and Chris is marrying Lexi in the Sacramento LDS temple on September 1st. It’s a wonderful time for our family and a mother’s dream come true.

But then Gracie got sick. She’s my daughter’s oldest daughter and is just two and a half. It was nothing short of a miracle that Dr. Mohammed was able to diagnose HLH so early. It’s rare and often fatal, but treatable with steriods and Chemo Therapy.

Gracie with her doggy

The first big question her doctors must answer is how did she get it. If it was an overreaction to an infection, she should do well with standard chemo and steriods and powerful antibiotics.

But if it’s genetic, it can happen without any infectious stimulous. And HLH will flare over and over until she either gets a bone marrow transplant or dies. But bone marrow transplants have only a 63% survival expectancy.

For now, she started out responding well. The doctors soon backed down her steriods and tried doing chemo just once a week instead of twice.

But she had another flair with her temperature soaring even with the steroids. The macrophages in her blood that are supposed to fight bacteria or viruses turn against her and begin devouring healthy cells.

We won’t know for 5 more weeks whether it’s genetic or not. In the meantime, I’m begging and pleading with anyone and everyone to register for matching bone marrow on bethematch.org.

If you’re under age 44 or younger, they send you a kit and you swab the inside of your cheek and send it back in the provided vial. You have only about a .25 chance of matching with someone, but if you do, I understand that it’s similar to donating blood. It’s not taken surgically.

For now, she’s getting blood  transfusions between chemo treatments. So if you’d like to donate blood in her honor, that would be a kind and generous gesture also.

Here’s the link https://bethematch.org   You may have to cut and paste it. 

 

Please, please share this post on your social media if you haven’t already, and thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have been so generous and concerned! 

The purple and green on her hand is marker she colored on her hand over the place where her IV had been before she had her PICC line. The PICC line is in her arm and takes meds to a large vein near her heart so that the strong Chemo drugs don’t burn out an IV vein, and so they can easily draw blood for myriad tests each day.

Big Brother McCoey photobombs Gracy’s picture in St. Francis Children’s hospital-St. Jude affiliated in Tulsa, OK. 

 

IT’S HERE IN TIME FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY!!

June 23, 2018

I love this nation! There is so much that is good and great and so much that most people don’t know about, I feel it is a sacred opportunity to share the miracle that is America.

The Selfie is from the Great Wall of China

I never thought websites pirating my column hurt me. In fact, the more sites that publish Americana, the better it fills its mission of highlighting the good and great of America. I’m even a bit pleased to find it on a new site.

But the pirates have caused me a royal pain in the backside lately.

Jeff has been working on formatting and adding pictures to prepare Beth Stephenson’s Americana Volume Two  for publishing for a few months. I got the new cover designed and we finally submitted for publishing.

But the darn pirate websites (other than the newspaper sites that I have authorized to publish the columns) keep triggering the copyright filter’s red flags in the publishing website.  They say, “Since the material in your book is available online, you have to prove that you own the rights.’

I obtained letters from the newspapers stating that I retain the copyrights, and that cleared Beth Stephenson’s Americana Volume Two for publishing. We ordered some copies and they were delivered, but when I went to verify available online, the title was supressed again.

Up and down, round and round.

But oh happy day! At this moment, Beth Stephenson’s Americana VOLUME TWO is available both in paperback on Amazon for $9.99 and on Kindle for $2.99. The picture link at the top of side bar is active so just click the picture to check it out. The paperback has black and white pictures but the kindle version has colored pictures.  If by the time you try the link it says ‘unavailable’ again, you’ll know that the pirates caught me AGAIN!

 

Only in America, God bless it!

California, Here I come!

June 13, 2018

Jeff and I had planned to take life a little easier this year. But after two of our sons and their families missed the family cruise we did last year, we wanted to do the make up trips for at least one of them.

But probably not another cruise with little kids. Not that the kids didn’t love it, they did. It was a Carnival Caribbean trip with stops in Cayman Islands, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize. But we had too many little people to allow the adults time to do their own thing. Plus, though the waiters in the dining room bent over backward to give the children an extra special experience, the kids didn’t have patience or interest in a meal served in courses over an hour and a half.

Since both Rob’s family and Daniel’s family have lots of small fry, we decided to take them to California instead. No place is more beloved than the area where I grew up, so Jeff rented an Air BnB in the Santa Cruz area.

I’m loving this Air BnB concept! It was a condo with beds for about 12 though we only used ten.

It had nice kitchen, dining, living areas with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Though it wasn’t really cheaper than hotels would have been for two bedrooms, no hotel is set up to sleep six children. Even if we rented three rooms, then the parents have to split up with 4 to a room. It’s so much more comfortable to all be together and have the use of a comfortable living area and kitchen. It cost about $500 a night, but it was only 2 blocks from the beach and the Boardwalk.

We started by playing at the beach. I’ve visited a lot of beaches in the world, but I think the California coast has the softest and most moldable sand. The twins, Michael and I made an AWESOME sand castle. Some of the others swam, but I decided that there is no badge of honor for swimming in the heart-stopping cold water. I’ve done it hundreds of times and this time, I decided it wasn’t worth the pain. Wading was enough. 

A seal swam by us near the beach, just lolling along doing what seals do. (elicit screams of delight and wonder from landlubbers)

I’m going to write about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk in my column, (SO FUN and NOT crowded)

Jeff and I walked to the end of the pier and loved watching the sealions feeding and playing.

I’m also going to write about the Roaring Camp Railroad and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in column. (It was also fun, historic, and the giant trees delight me every time I see them.)

We visited the Cement Boat at Seacliff Beach, too. There was a cute little boy named Javier who was delighted by the 6 inch fish he had caught off the pier. They dynamited the boat after the 2016 storms. You can no longer walk onto the boat itself nor even to the collapsing end of the pier. The boat is more settled into the surf than it used to be, too. We did learn that when it was first sunk off Seacliff beach there was a dance hall and restaurant that operated onboard.

After 3 nights in the Air BnB, we stopped by the house on Pleasant Valley Rd where I grew up. It’s strange to me that the house and valley are still there, when they seem like such a distant memory to me. It’s such a beautiful place, I will always love it. The apple tree right in front of the living room window is the only one left on the property, I think. There were 20-25 when we lived there. The commercial orchards that surrounded our house have all been planted in vineyards now, too.  

We went on to buy candy at the Corralitos Store. It’s about three miles from our childhood house and they still sell what used to be penny candy. . .only it costs a dime now. We used to walk all that way and back with less than $.50 to spend.

We set up camp for the next two nights at the Sunset Beach State Park Campground. Lots of the beaches on the Monterey BAy have campgounds on them. But I made the reservation about 6 months ago and got the last two spots.

 

 

 

 

The campsites are roomy, but they only allow 8 people per

site, so we had to rent two sites and they were nearby but not side by side. The beach was cold and windy, even though it was very sunny. It’s not a great swimming beach ever, nor is the beach combing rewarding, but the sunset was indeed lovely and we were almost the only ones there.  We are still loving our little Marmot tent and our Klymit sleeping pads. They are so compact and so efficient, we really enjoy sleeping comfortably when camping. We tried out our new featherweight sleeping bags, (2 pounds) but I was chilly without a blanket, so I think I’ll be happier with something rated a little lower than 45.

 

We toured the old Carmel Mission, which the kids tolerated and the Monterey Acquarium which they LOVED, (but I’m going to write about both those events in my Americana column in the next few months too. I don’t want to steal my own thunder.)

We had a feeding frenzy at the fruit stand that had grapefruits 10 for a dollar, oranges 7 for a dollar, avocados 7 for a dollar and artichokes, 10 for a DOLLAR! It was on highway 1 just south of Moss Landing before you get to Castroville. 

Admission to the Aquariumn was cheaper to buy a years family pass for $250 than to pay for Rob’s family of 8 individually. The Aquarium comped me our tickets since I’m going to write about them. (As did the Boardwalk and the Roaring Camp Railroad). The railroad ride $29 for adults and $23 for kids. The Boardwalk was $42 with tax for everyone over 2.

After the Acquarium, we walked toward Fisherman’s wharf along Cannery Row until we came to a pier. We went out on the pier and sbaaw dozens of Jellyfish in the marina on one side and loved watching the sealions arguing and  barking on the other side. We were up on the pier but they were only a few feet from us. Later, sea otters came swimming along on their backs, cracking open some mussels on rocks on their chests. 

We also saw dophins swimming just beyond the surf at Rio Del Mar Beach.

After 5 nights on the Monterey Bay, we headed south to Paso Robles. We had hoped to visit Big Sur, but the bridge on Highway 1 that was destroyed by a mudslide last year is still out of commission.

Our brother in law/uncle/great uncle Jim Sorenson lives in Paso Robles. He is a spectacular host and the kids all adore him. We enjoyed his pool and hot tub, yummy meals and good company. But after all the expense and planning, Jim scooped our cool-grandparent status by taking all of us (except Marseille who declined) up in his airplane. How many kids have experienced zero gravity? Jim treated them to a whoop-de-woo where he climbs sharply and then dives so that there are a few seconds of zero gravity. Your stomach really does take flight!  He flew us over to San Simeon to circle Hearst’s Castle and then out over the ocean. We saw.  WHALES spouting from the plane! 

This is Jim’s view from his dining room.

We wound up the trip with a long coastal hike along the cove in San Simeon near the old mission and a thorough gawk at the Sea Elephants basking and arguing on the beach just north of San Simeon. There are always Sea Elephants there, but this time of year, most of them were female or youngsters, so most didn’t have the typical trunk. 

We drove home through Las Vegas where it was a mere 111. in the shade.

Utah seems very green and lovely after driving through southern Nevada.

Top it all off, after arriving home in the evening, we have family visiting for the next few days. and my little 9 year-old neice loved the playhouse I just finished the Saturday before we left. Now it’s time to buckle down and get ready for the Thomas and Katie’s wedding on July 28 and Chris and Lexi’s wedding on Sept 1. Yep, we’re busy, but life don’ get much betta dan dis!