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!

 

 

 

 

 

Surprises and thoughts

April 29, 2018

As some of you know, things have been very busy at the Stephenson household. This last week we got to see all but one of our children and their families. Five of our sons and my brother-in-law Barry went to Moab Utah to ride their mountain bikes on Slick Rock. It is apparently the most famous mountain biking trail in the world. (I didn’t research it, I took my sons’ word for it.) The videos of the ride look very fun and make me very glad that I was on Grandma duty at home.

Daniel and Lindsay, (our #5 child and his wife and three kids) came for Lindsay’s sister’s wedding, but we got to have them stay with us for a few days before the wedding festivities started.

Last Monday morning, 5-year-old Kate wanted to give me a manicure. I’ve been gardening and my nails were dirty and UGLY! But the ‘layered look’ of nail  polish applied by a kindergarten age child didn’t take into account that her Grandma has never had the patience to let nail polish fully dry. It looked like it had been rubbed on a sweater.

But once Kate got going on my make-over, she decided to do my hair. I think my naturally unruly curls offended her sense of fashion. I diddn’t mind, it felt so good to have her combing water into my hair until it was slicked back like a 1960’s greaser.

Then she asked me to put on a ‘beautiful blouse.’ I found a very unbecoming blouse that I probably should get rid of, but it has some sparkly treatment around the neck and Kate was satisfied by it’s elegance.

To top off my fashion rebirth, she chose a necklace that I bought for the beads at a thrift store and have never dismantled. It clashed somewhat with the ugly (but sparkly) blouse, but what the heck. I’ve never had a true makeover.

Last but not least, she poured over my earrings, finally choosing some pink hearts with rhinestones. Though they did clash with my blouse which clashed with the necklace, I was all hers.

The agenda for the day was to take the family to The Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, UT. After we had played our hearts out all morning, climbing and playing in the playground and exploring the wonders of the hands-on demonstrations, we were going to eat lunch at the gardens and then take the 2 mile walk through the gardens. It’s the middle of the tulip festival there and we knew they’d be glorious.

I reminded myself that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of my rather garish ensemble, if Kate was pleased that I didn’t change anything.

So off we went. The museum was FUN!

We ate our picnic on the front lawn of the gardens before we went in. I hadn’t thought at all about my attire, hairstyle or anything else (except sunscreen).

That’s when someone noticed a certain famous person nearby.

I had always wanted to meet this particular person. I have admired him and think he’s a good, solid man. There was a news crew there interviewing him and when they walked on, I listened to him answer questions from children. One little girl asked, “What’s a politician?”

He mis-heard and thought she said ‘poet’. When she corrected him he said, Well, a poet makes rhymes and sometimes politians say things that are not true. But I always do my best to tell the truth. It’s important to tell the truth.”

What I noticed about the interaction was that his demeanor was schmoozy with the adults: friendly and interactive the way you would expect from a campaigning politician. And oh my, he’s got the smile and the looks to outschmooze the schmooziest. But when he talked to the little ones, the veneer dropped away, his voice gentled and he spoke very sincerely and kindly. No wonder the little ones didn’t seem shy of him. He spoke with warmth and sincerity that made me wish that the cameras had still been there show what seemed the truth of the man himself.

He knows he’s a great man. He’s one of the most famous people in the world. I know he’s a good man, if for no other reason than seeing the way he interacted with little children. (I also listened in on the TV interview and realized that he had a deep and broad understanding of world affairs and had very good reasons for some of his more controversial positions. Most of that will never make it onto the TV because anything the editor doesn’t like ends up victim to the delete button.)

So I introduced myself and documented the moment. I’ve always liked him from a distance. I like his policies and politics. I know he’ll be smeared and slammed. But truth will out. If only the reporters and competing politicians understood that “It’s always important to tell the truth.”

Do you recognize this fellow?

A Sudden National Champion in the Family!

April 6, 2018

So MANY exciting things are happening in our family. Probably the most unexpected was the news we received a week ago that our Daughter in Law, Kelsi was about to compete in the Nationals for USASA.

It was a shock because we didn’t know that she was competing AT ALL.

It started about a year ago when she and Brian had a conversation about what they would do differently if they could go back a few years. Kelsi wished that she had competed in snowboard racing.

Why not now?

Why not indeed!

So she started it. She broke her ankle badly on her first trip to train on a real giant slalom course. She was disabled for months as the pins and screws helped her bones heal.

But as soon as the snow came again in the fall, she was out on the slopes, this time snowboarding against others and a clock.

She won first place in her very first event. She’s never had a coach. She’s never had any special athletic training. But she loves to snowboard and loves to go fast. Very, very fast.

She won her second competition.

And her third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, on and on.

She came into the Nationals undefeated!

Of course she hopes to attract sponsors and aims at the pros, What could she do with a little coaching?

I was nervous all morning, waiting to hear the results of the Giant Slalom, senior division.

At last the text came. “Kelsi is the Senior women’s  Giant Slalom Snowboard NATIONAL CHAMPION!

YAAAAAYYYY!!!

Ironically, she and Brian are moving to St. Maartens, an island in the Caribbean for him to start med school in a couple of weeks. Hmmmm.

I don’t blame her for not wanting everyone to know what she intended to try. I am often reluctant to share my own big dreams.

But if you don’t dream, you don’t do.

I’m so proud and pleased for her!

Follow the link for a run she made in a competition in March. Notice how silent the snow is in much of the footage.

ALOHA! (Finally!)

March 15, 2018

Note: All photos are copyrighted. Ask permission before using.

I had to go. I was obligated. I’ve been writing Americana for 26 months now and had never been to two of our US states. Now I’m down to one and we’ve already planned a trip for the summer that will knock off that last one. I’ll have a perfect set!

Jeff planned a fun trip and once again, succeeded in providing 8 days of fascinating culture and history, and a variety of fun hikes, wondrous snorkeling and spectacular scenery. . .all on a relative shoestring. (Costs at the end.)

oil rising from the sunken battleship Arizona in Pearl Harbor

We started out with a visit to Pearl Harbor. We got there early and got the free tickets for the boat out to the Arizona Memorial. The whole park is solemn, but rich in context of the times and mindset of all the warring countries. The sunken Arizona is one of three ships that was not salvaged and put back into commission during WW2. About  2 gallons of oil per day leaks up from the engines of the battleship turned tomb.

BEST of Arizona Memorial

In fact the Arizona itself is an active Cemetery. The bodies of about 940 soldiers are currently entombed there. Men who survived the attack on the Arizona have the option of having their remains laid to rest with their shipmates when they die. There are currently just 5 men remaining, ranging in age between 93 to 99. Two of those men have arranged to be cremated and have their ashes interred with their shipmates. It’s a holy place. The names of the men who died that day, Dec 7 1941 are inscribed on the back wall. The Arizona had the highest casualties because the Japanese bomb hit the Armory and detonated all of the ammunition on board.

Later that day, we toured the USS Missouri, which is now a museum. This ship was under construction on Pearl Harbor Day and didn’t enter the war until 1944. But she fought in subsequent wars, even the Gulf War, most recently. The guns on the deck are never fired to the front, but must be turned so that the percussion doesn’t blast a hole in the gun deck.  It is most significant because the instruments of the Japanese surrender were signed on board in Tokyo Bay. This is the deck on the USS Missouri where the Japanese signed the papers that ended World War 2. It’s hard to comprehend what a powerful event that was! How many hundreds of thousands of lives were saved!

This is a little hard to read, but this is propaganda, dropped on American positions. Psychological warfare takes its toll, too.

Overall, Pearl Harbor and other sites around Oahu give context and incredible detail to help us understand what happened in Japan and in Germany that they could perpetrate the vast evil on the world that they did. Pride and power lust are a deadly combination.

On  to the eastern side of the island for some spectacular views.  This is Hanauma Bay. (below) It’s actually the ancient crater to a volcano. The open side eventually eroded enough to let in the sea and coral reefs grew. The amazing variety of colorful fish entertained us for a couple of hours snorkeling. But the weather was a little chilly and we needed to bask for a awhile just to warm up. (I didn’t expect the water to be so cool.)

Unexpected company as we ate our picnic on the grass above Hanauma Bay. 

We hiked to this 100 foot waterfall, Manoa Falls. Lush, wet jungle and LOTS of other hikers.

I do look fat in this picture, but I’m wearing a bathingsuit with bunchy shorts underneath because I thought we could swim at this waterfall. We did swim later that day.

We hiked to the top of Diamond Head. That’s Waikiki in the background. Diamond head is actually the front edge of a volcanic crater. It was used as sort of a natural fortress during WW2. See the pill box on the little rise on the right side of the picture? One of the flights of stairs inside the Diamondhead crater. I’m standing opposite a long tunnel. There are 100 stairs in this flight.

Jeff on the Manoa Falls hike.

The Hawai’i temple in La’ie is more grand and impressive than we had realized. Attendees move from room to room in symbolic progression upward.

The Polynesian Culture Center is an Amazing highlight. Here are a few pictures I’m not using in the Americana column.

It is impossible to get a still photo that depicts the violence with which those ladies wiggle/shake their hips! I didn’t know I had joints that would do that! 

roasted pig at the Luau

They were teaching us to twirl the fire sticks. Thank goodness they were not lit! See my temporary tattoo on my wrist?

Jeff getting ready to go into the water at Waikiki

That’s Waikiki from the other direction. We were lucky to have a warm, sunny morning even though rain was forecast all day. It wasn’t crowded at all, and on the Diamond Head end of the beach, there was good snorkeling a few feet off the beach. (Not good for regular swimming, however.)

Diamond head from a huge park on the end of Waikiki (plenty of free parking on that end of the beach, too.

Much too windy for sailing!

View from a steep hike to the Makapuu lighthouse overlook.  

I have always had a fascination for lighthouses. They’re so wonderfully symbolic and each seems to have interesting tales associated with it. A WW2 plane was patrolling along the coast in bad weather during WW2. It mistook this lighthouse for the one below Diamond Head and crashed into the cliffs just behind the camera angle. 9 soldiers lost their lives.

This is the living room of our Air BnB

This is the kitchen of the Air BnB where we stayed in Aiea     Cliffs like these are all over Oahu. Violent natural forces at work!

After snorkeling and basking at Waikiki in the morning, we explored another area of the island that was purported to have the most beautiful beaches of all. Yes, they were lovely. Though this beach was on the leeward side of the island, it was so windy that these kitesurfers were taking flight. On the left of the pictures, there is a guy doing a flip with his board. He looks kind of like a fly on the lens. There were about a dozen people windsurfing.

this 250 pound sea turtle was basking on Turtle Beach. Volcanic rocks surround the island and punctuate each beach.

 

We also went to Waimia Valley, but forgot our good camera. This has a fun hike to a swim-able waterfall and lovely botanical gardens. It was raining that day, so impeded our enjoyment somewhat, but still worth it. There are archaeological ruins with interpretive signs that depict native life before the pineapple growers took over the island (very literally). The gardens are conducting research for countries all over the world in preserving and improving native plants. It’s organized by country, too. If it hadn’t been so wet, we could have spent 5-6 hours there very easily. I also got to blow a conch shell. I thought it would be difficult but it’s about like blowing a trumpet. It squeaked a bit when I first tried, but I got the hang of it.

I had always wanted to see the Pipeline where the surfers are roaring down 40 foot swells. It’s hard to tell, but some of these waves were probably 20 feet! The picture doesn’t do it justice, but they were the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. . .

The Dole plantation was mostly a tourist trap. Stop in and have some pineapple soft serve ice cream, (Dole whip) It’s like gelato. . .expensive but worth it. We went to the botanical garden which was fun, but overpriced. Go up the highway a little farther and you can see the pineapples growing in the fields.

 

So. . .costs. Flights combined were a little under $1100. Lodging was an Air BnB $475 for 7 nights. (Incredible deal. Nice apartment, good location, excellent hostess) rental car $200 Picked up and dropped off at the airport. $150 in Restaurants and treats. $73 on groceries, (We made lunches most days.)

The Polynesian Cultural Center gave me free press passes but the day admission, all-you-can-eat-luau and dinner show and Ha, Breath of Life show in the theater (with astonishing firedancers and great entertainment) would have been $115 apiece. SO WORTH IT! If you go all the way to Oahu, bite the bullet and go for the gusto at the PCC!

The Arizona Memorial is free to everyone, but reserve tickets in advance, or get there early in the day.

The USS Missouri museum costs $27 per adult, but those tickets were also given as a press pass. Also worth it for adults. (Kids, not so much.)

Parking for hikes, Admission to Hanauma bay, etc, total about $75.

We spent about $50 on souvenirs.

All total, about $2025. If we’d had to pay for the USS Missouri and PCC it would have been  almost $300 more. We were gone 8 days.

 

 

 

 

Gun Control is an issue of freedom, not killing.

March 2, 2018

Son, Scott’s amazing pumpkin.

I have been following the Gun Control debate with interest. But nobody is addressing the most important argument of all. The Elephant in the room (happening to represent one party) is an issue of freedom.
It was stated most simply by a lady we met in China. She was a Chinese lady who spoke good English. She had traveled to visit her daughter in the US a few times and had insight into the two cultures and governments.
She said not one word while we were at Tienanmen Square about the massacre of peaceful people protesting Communism. Later, on the bus when the soldiers were out of earshot, she said. “The Chinese people know nothing about the killing that happened on Tienanmen Square. The government tells us that the Chinese are the happiest, wealthiest, safest people in the world every night on the ‘news’. It’s not really news. It’s propaganda. But we can’t do anything about our government because we have no guns. There is nowhere in China that we can buy guns. Only the government has guns, so they have all the power. In America, you have guns, so the people have power.”
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787
No, assault rifles had not been invented when the right to gun ownership was guaranteed by the Constitution., But thinking in terms of the citizen population needing equal firepower to their government to keep the government in it’s proper place, I believe they would have endorsed citizens being legally allowed to own whatever common weapon is issued to military.
That’s why, in my opinion, that liberals pivot to disarming citizens with every incident of gun violence. They yearn for a government more like China or Russia, and  oppressive governments are impossible when the citizenry is well armed. I think it’s reasonable to believe that the more equal the citizenry’s weapons to the generally distributed personal arms in the military, the safer our Democratic Republic and Bill of Rights.
 Which states do you think are safest from the government, those where rifles are commonly owned or those that consider it immoral?
In California, you can own an AR-15 (which has a clip that holds 20 bullets, but you have to put a little screw at the 10 bullet mark so that it can only fire 10. It creates an inconvenience at the firing range and seems ridiculous in principle. The difference in the hands of a kook is insignificant. He doesn’t mind committing the crime of removing the screw before he goes into a crowded place to murder people.
Interesting fact I read yesterday. Mass shooters in America have come from broken homes with no significant father figure. The problem we should be addressing has nothing to do with guns, it has to do with the disintegration of the family and values.
(Side note) I think we’d be far wiser to ban violent video games and target violence pornography. If we stop kids from fantasizing about killing, the actions won’t follow.
One more, (mostly unrelated) comment about hunters. I changed my view 180 degrees when we moved to Colorado 25 years ago. The antlered vermin could devour my young fruit trees and chomp down my garden and lop off my flowers like lollipops except in a short season when hunters could go far away from residences and thin out the herd. I HOPED that they were hunting near us. In places like the Air Force Academy, (where there are hundreds of wooded acres) hunting was allowed about every 5th year because the deer overpopulate when not harvested. Overpopulation causes the deer to die of starvation and become vulnerable to disease.
The vast majority of hunters I have known eat the animal they kill. They have a freezer full of venison, elk or antelope steaks and roasts. When they have shared with me, I have enjoyed the meat. I would have no qualms about killing the animal myself if it was convenient, but it sounds like a boring undertaking to me. In my experience, hunters consider the annual hunt a combination of a fun camping trip to enjoy nature and a harvest of meat. Unless you’re a vegetarian, (See 1 Timothy 4:3) you have little moral argument against hunting. I guess my point is that there’s a difference between those who are bloodthirsty and those who hunt for the fun of obtaining a large supply of good quality protein while enjoying nature.I see no difference morally between hunting and fishing. I object, in both cases to those who let the flesh go to waste. Killing for the pleasure of killing is evil.
But an armed people is a free people. We must keep a balance between citizenry and military lest we end up like China. . .with no power.

Best way to lose weight, how to be humble,

February 25, 2018

Baby Carina on her blessing day, at 6 days.

New baby Henry having a cuddle

Tricia’s pregnant belly was so outstanding (in the very literal sense) I had to share it. The baby blessing and  family photo were taken 6 days later. After just two weeks, Tricia had lost 30 pounds.

I tried to shed the pounds that were creeping back, but the older I get, the harder it gets.

So I joined Weight Watchers (again) I like it because I don’t feel hungry and eat a balanced diet. It’s a lot easier to eat just one cookie when you know you are going to take a hit in points for every bite.  If you are thinking of joining, do it the DAY BEFORE you go grocery shopping.

There is a free app issued by the US government called “My Plate” that is similar to the old version of Weight Watchers. It can work if you’re diligent, but I think Weight Watchers is much easier. Probably the most important difference is the free foods. You can fill up on 0 point foods and even when eating as much of those foods as you want, calories tend to remain low. They’ve added some free foods that are good protein sources that make it satisfying. The tracking has been streamlined and simplified, too, so it’s easier than before.

No, this is NOT a paid endorsement!

Next, how to be humble:

Two new grandbabies have joined the Stephenson family. Jeff and I spent a total of three weeks travelling and visiting (and hopefully helping.) I don’t think there is anything more profound or spiritual than holding a newborn baby. I feel the love of our Heavenly Father so abundantly and my gratitude is deep!

While there, Tricia commented that when she visited other families she came away grateful that her children are easier than most. Both her older kids were in their naps at the moment. Three-year-old McCoey had said he wasn’t tired and Tricia had allowed him to take paper and crayons into his nap to sit at the little table and color while Gracie slept.

She should have frisked him first. After about an hour, we heard a bit of stirring and Jeff peeked in. He noticed that Grace was out of her pack n play. He quietly shut the door and then checked again a moment later when we heard more stirring. Grace was in her pack n play. But McCoey was hiding behind the pack n play. That’s when Jeff noticed the Gracie-sized hole in the mesh wall of the pack n play.

We soon noticed that McCoey had a pair of safety scissors in his hand.

I asked him if he had cut the hole in the pack n play and the little saint said, “I don’t think so.” I pressed a little more and Grace (who is 2) was accused. I pressed a little more and he said, “well, maybe I did.”

Tricia got up from her nap and immediately noticed that McCoey had a new haircut.

As she picked up the tufts from the corner of the bedroom, she realized that not only were there tufts of McCoey’s hair, Gracie’s hard earned golden curls were mixed in, too!

Grace has been follicularly challenged but has finally (at age 2) achieved some delicately curling hair on the back of her head and some on top… He left the one curl on top. I suppose if she can grow it once, she can do it again.

McCoey is usually a very helpful and polite little person. But new babies rock everybody’s worlds. He may yet grow up to be a fine, upstanding man like George Washington, (who is said to have admitted cutting down the cherry tree,). I wonder if part of the story is that first he blamed it on his sister. . .and THEN his conscience got the better of him. But I wonder if George Washington would have thought to cut off his sister’s few little curls?

Time will tell. I’ll update in about 20 years.

Almost the first thing Kate (Daniel’s daughter) said to me when I got to their house in Texas was, “Grandma, you look bigger than the last time I saw you.”

Why is it fine for me to say that to her, but not cool at all that she say the exact same thing to me?

Most of getting older is terrific. Grandkids are great fun and I am profoundly grateful that I can experience this new kind of love.

Maybe the two elements of this post are more related than I had thought. Maybe women are supposed to get soft and cuddly to invite the wee grand little souls to us for a snuggle. Maybe a little extra cushioning isn’t the worst thing…

Kate, Grandma and Andy in the Ft. Worth Stockyards

 

 

President Trump’s speech

February 1, 2018

I apologize to all who hate all politics. If you do, stop reading now.

I watched President Trump’s state of the Union address. After all, my column, Americana, is about Everything Good in America! Surely if there are good things happening in America, it would be highlighted in our President’s speech.

I was pleased by his demeanor. I’m sure his speech writers worked long and hard to shape not only his image but the tone of his message. Frankly, I don’t think he (or anybody) could have done better. The only criticism that a literary folk like I might complain about was the addition of unnecessary adjectives, (wonderful, beautiful, terrific, horrible etc). Pretty small stuff, eh? But then again, the use of superlatives is quintessential Trump. And when read in print, it leaves no room for shading his meaning.

I appreciated the tact and subtlety in referencing our illegal alien problems when he said, “Americans are dreamers, too.” I wonder if the legal voters who oppose him realize that the huge toll illegal immigrants have on our society detours vast amounts of money that could otherwise be used to improve life for citizens in our inner cities, schools and make dangerous neighborhoods safer for honest, law abiding citizens.

He courageously highlighted the obvious truth that American leaders first obligation is to serve American interests. When America is strong and thriving, historically, we export prosperity around the world. Trump wants to make America great by serving AMERICANS first. It is his and every single representatives’, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, sworn oath to do so.

It’s not that I don’t have compassion for those who bring their families here for a better life. If I lived in Mexico or some other Latin American country, I would do whatever it took to bring my children here, whatever the price. But it truly is in the best interest of America to prevent illegals from draining our resources away from the most needy in America.

It astonished me to hear how the ABC commentators framed his speech. I am pretty certain that they had printed out their responses before they even heard the speech.

ABC, I have to wonder if you realized that everybody who heard your comments had just watched the speech. People who do that are going to have their own feelings and responses.

WE HEARD the president say several times that he wanted to work with both parties to solve problems. That is not divisive, it is unifying, if the minority has any interest in working for a better America.

WE SAW the rows of sullen Democrats sit on their hands when Trump lauded American Heroes and drew attention to victims of evil.

WE WATCHED in astonishment as reporters billed the “rebuttal” by Joe Kennedy as “a much more unifying speech” IN ADVANCE of his giving it.

WE SAT in astonishment as Joe Kennedy, (handsome, rich, (with a net worth of $43 million at age thirty-ish which he did not earn, but received from his incredibly rich white privileged family) and appealing, despite his overuse of vaseline,) talked about the poor and downtrodden WITHOUT PROPOSING ONE SINGLE SOLUTION TO ONE SINGLE PROBLEM.  I also noted that in a room full of well-dressed Democrats, there was only one black person visible and nobody of any other race. And wouldn’t a rebuttal, if offered as an answer to Trump, have more credibility if it ALSO was given in front of a mixed party audience?

If I were an ABC reporter, I would have refused to read a script of such nonsense, no matter how much I hated the President. It was an insult to  their viewers, and utterly destructive of their own credibility as news reporters.

It did however boost their value as potential comedy performers.

I assume that some of the statistics are massaged to reflect better than actual facts, though I have no examples of that. But after researching Obama’s flagrantly misleading use of numbers I have to concede that it may be a common political practice.

I also  know that no massaging was necessary when speaking of the truth that American businesses of all sizes are optimistic and thriving. That President Donald Trump has delivered on his promises to business in spectacular fashion. His ideas and economic concepts are working.

The result of thriving businesses is showing to be better than trickle down: it’s flowing straight into the pockets of American workers. Perhaps the wealthy are getting wealthier, (by my standards, coming from a single teacher/coach income family), I’m rich and our retirement account is getting richer.) But if the rich are getting richer, we/they are also buying more products, using more services, tipping, sharing, donating more. If you doubt me, look at the numbers for charitable donations in the last year. So the poor are getting richer, too.

Again, if you doubt me, look at the statistics. More importantly, note the upward mobility of the poorest citizens. Americas poor are not as poor as they used to be, and most American workers steadily increase their net worth throughout their lives.

I am sick to death of the left pointing out big salaries for CEO’s. The numbers involved are so tiny compared with the general economy that if you fired every one of the top twenty highest paid CEO’s  and confiscated their yearly salaries, you could give every American worker, (whether employed or not,) a whopping $5. FIVE SMACKERS! That’s a one time payment, not a raise or recurring event.

If I was so lucky to get that largess, I’d use a Subway coupon and buy a footlong sandwich!

But if there were no CEO’s, businesses would flounder. Soon they wouldn’t be hiring. Soon there would not be money to pay employees. Unemployment would rise and we’d slide first into a recession and then into a depression. Companies, like families, churches, schools, and every other organization, need leaders. In the case of business, the best leaders are the most profitable for the company and all its employees, and so they are paid the most. But anxious is the head that wears the crown. They are also the most likely to be fired for non-performance.

I thought it was courageous of Trump to call out the vicious gang MS-13. Though no Democrats seemed to approve, their constituents in the inner cities live in fear of this pervasive evil. Most of these gang members are of Latin American descent and enter the country as unaccompanied minors. Their common hand sign is the index and pinky held up in a ‘devil horns salute.’ Held upside down, it signifies the “M” for Mara. The 13 refers to the 13 second beating new members must survive before becoming members.

Wasn’t it fascinating that the Black Caucus didn’t clap or cheer when the President commented that Black unemployment is down by half? Why not? Why not indeed!

The ABC commentators swooned over the fact that some of the Black United States Congressmen were wearing their Kinta Cloths. So they are not Americans? They don’t want what’s best for Americans? If they are identified only by their ancestral origins, as they emphasize by their African adornments, are we to understand that they are only interested in the well-being of Africans?

Black Americans are doing better. Isn’t that something to celebrate? It seems to me that their hostile response indicates that they realize that when Trump succeeds in making life better for their constituents, they lose power and influence. Their oppressive tactics that maintain their power and encourage dependency are weakened as the people are empowered to succeed without them. No wonder they’re frowning. They’re being exposed for the corrupt and oppressive people they are. If Black Americans thrive, they lose. No wonder they hate Trump.

It’s a true fact that unemployment is down across all demographics. It’s indeed a direct result of friendly business policies. Trump deserves credit.

The extreme tactics resorted to by his enemies: hurling accusations, charges and innuendos without regard for  truth suggest just how much of a threat to their patterns of oppression he is.

I don’t endorse Trumps morals. From what I observed of him before he had political aspirations, personal morality was not important to him. Ironically, that’s the one thing the Lefties can’t bring up or exploit because of the well-known immorality/drug use by Democrat heroes like Clinton, Kennedy (s) and Obama.

It’s almost hilarious that the media is having such a fit over the crass comments Trump made about some black nations when Hillary Clinton herself is known to have a vicious potty-mouth extraordinaire.

But I digress. Like him or not, President Trump is doing a fantastic job. He’s truly creating a path to making America great again.

The only question that remains is whether we, as a people, have sunk into immorality and evil to the degree that God cannot longer continue to bless this land and people. When/if that is true, no mortal leader, no matter how talented and no matter how righteous will be able to rescue us.

If we want to receive good, we must BE good, work hard, be honest and committed to the cause of promoting righteousness.

If we do, we will prosper in the land.

Happy events

January 19, 2018

Many readers of CCC know my family. I have a daughter and six sons. I admit that I have to rationalize my pride in them. When does pride in one’s children become unrighteous?

Here’s how I have figured it out. Pride is unrighteous when it is competitive. Since I feel no competition, but merely wish to rejoice and to have those who care about me to rejoice with me, I am going to share some of our recent good news.

Today, Daniel successfully defended his Dissertation! When he finishes his Internship in August, he will be a doctor of psychology. He intends to work as a prison psychologist.

Tricia and Walt are about to have a baby girl. Daniel and Lindsay have a baby boy due the same day. Rob and Marseille are expecting this summer (gender or genders yet unknown)

Scott joined a dental practice in Pocatello, ID, last summer.  It’s so fun to have him finished with the Army and settling in.

Brian will be starting Medical School in May. He and Kelsi will be moving to St. Martaans. (Caribbean island)

Chris is plugging away at BYU-I. He changed his major back to ‘Business’ from ‘Financial Economics’ because of a more favorable job path after graduation. He’ll have 2 semesters after the current one.

Thomas is a sophomore at BYU, also majoring in ‘business’. He wants to earn an MBA. I think he still wants to do family financial counseling/planning.

My column, Americana runs in two newspapers (we’re working on others) and is doing well. The Oklahoman has an ‘online share’ tally with the online version, and it is not uncommon for articles to reach several hundred shares. Thanks to ALL my readers for that!

Most exciting, I’m working on a new book project. It’s a memoir of a man who was born with a lethal disease. As a newborn, he went from the hospital where he was delivered to a hospital for terminally ill patients.

Obviously, he didn’t die, but grew up in the hospital with the expectation that all his friends died. He was rejected by his family and addicted to the pain killers used to sedate him in infancy.

But there were angels in his life, too, some from the most unexpected quarters of society.  It’s a story of triumph and God’s ultimate love finding us, no matter how dark the corner where we hide. I want to finish it by the end of 2018.

Jeff is enjoying his retirement, complete with season tickets to BYU football and basketball, planning Americana story-finding trips, and enjoying family.

We both enjoy tutoring a couple of kids in reading a few time a week.

We will soon release our joint project of Beth Stephenson’s Americana, volume 2.

So that’s us! Life is beautiful!