Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tulips In Bloom

We took a trip up to Skagit County today to see the tulips in bloom. I've lived in Washington for ten years and each year I swear I'm going to get up there to see the tulips but I never made it... until today! We had AJ with us this weekend so he went along. Here are the kids in the car, all ready for the drive up north!

On the way up, we stopped off at Dick's Burger in Seattle. They have the YUMMIEST burgers!

We stopped at a little place in Conway that had maps to the tulip fields. They had a couple of cool, old trucks that Ethan wanted to pose in front of:

Then we headed up to the fields, which weren't that far away. The colors of the tulips in the fields were astounding. They were so bright and vibrant and bold and beautiful. Row upon row of pinks, variegated pinks, purple, red, white and others.

There was also a huge field of daffodils. The brightness of the yellow hues, even on an overcast and drizzly day were amazing.

Personally, this is my favorite shot of the day:

After seeing the tulips, we headed over to an art gallery to see some art done by local artists. They had a little kids table with artsy stuff on it. Quite honestly, we're not big art gallery fans. I mistakenly assumed that this place was more for kids than anything else. In fact, it was filled with very pricey original pieces by local artists. But the kids sat down and made their little art projects at the table. Even Mike got into the fun!

Here's the cool card that Mike made:

Next we headed over to a place called (I think) the Berry Barn. They sell all kinds of trinkets there but we stopped for fresh pie. We picked up a peach pie. I had a slice tonight... delish! They also had ice cream and the price was really good. I was shocked to see that they had spumoni... mmm, mmm, good! When we were done there, we drove a little ways down the road into La Conner... what a quaint little town! They have the most beautiful wooded park there that overlooks the bridge that connects the two sides of La Conner.

After that we hit a cheap steak joint for dinner. I think it was called "Knives and Forks" and it was up in Mt. Vernon. We were thoroughly disappointed! The food was not good at all and the service was questionable at best. But oh well, no biggie. After dinner and on the way home, we stopped at the new, huge outlet mall. I think it's in Burlington. I was just excited to visit the Le Creuset store and it did not disappoint! Other than that, we were really weren't impressed with the mall. We felt like everything there still cost a mint. I mean come on, a regular cotton t-shirt for $14 and up to over $20. There was lots like that. Then we headed home. I slept most of the way since I worked last night. We had a lot of fun and I'm super glad we did it!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Springtime Treasures

The other day, I found a real springtime treasure at Trader Joe's... a gorgeous and fully blooming hydrangea plant! I have been pining after a hydrangea for a long time but just can't stomach the price. The average price I've seen for these is around $35! so imagine my utter shock and surprise when I found this beauty at TJs for a mere $7! How could I pass this treasure up? Truth is, I couldn't. I just had to have it. And it looks beautiful in my entryway. I've already learned that these guys are serious water drinkers. The second day I had it, I woke up to find it completely wilted and I was so sad, thinking I'd killed it. But then I put it outside for a few hours and gave it a lot of water and it perked right back up. So I'm careful to water it now! I just love the pink blossoms. They are so beautiful!

And on Thursday, I took the kids down to Windmill Gardens in Sumner. I LOVE that place. It's like a dream land. I always feel like I'm in a different world when I'm there. Plus, they have a really cool little tropical area in the green house and it always makes me feel like I'm home in Hawaii. The kids love to toss pennies in the fountain there and make wishes!

Ethan and Evan have memberships to the Kids Club there. Each month they present their cards and they are entitled to a free starter plant. The plant changes from month to month. This month, the club selection was a petunia starter. Funny... when I hear that name... petunia... it takes me back to when I was just about Ethan's age. My mother and step father lived in a house in North Hollywood, California. Outside the front door, they had a raised flower bed and in it they grew petunias. Anyway... I digress...

Evan was snippy and didn't really want a petunia... he wanted a marigold or a snap dragon or a sweet pea... anything but a petunia. Finally, I just chose his free petunia and let him choose something else. We ended up with two different types of petunias, plus I bought a few starts... a coleus, a lobelia plant, and a lavender snap dragon. I thought about getting a pot or planter box to put them all in, but the boxes were all very pricey. Finally, we went outside to where they sell a ton of ceramic pots and found one for $9.99. It's a really pretty ceramic pot. Plus, at Windmill, they have a deal where you can get free potting soil if you purchase the plants and pots. So we paid for our treasures... $17 total. Really not bad. Then we went to the potter's bench and took turns filling the pot with potting soil and fertilizer. Then we removed all our starts from their little plastic containers and arranged them in the pot and filled it up with more dirt. I think we did a GREAT job and we LOVE the finished product. Incidentally, Windmill does sell pre-made pots with starts in them already. The cheapest one I could find there was $40. So for less than half that price, we got a beautiful one! It is sitting outside our front door where it can get part sun and part shade. So far, it looks like it's thriving and we are excited to see it flower. I'll be sure and post updated photos as it changes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Scripture Study - 04/25/08

Today we read from 1 Nephi 2:5-11. We discussed how Lehi and his family departed into the wilderness and traveled for three days until they reached the shore of the Red Sea. We looked on the globe to see the distance between Israel and the Red Sea. Ethan was amazed that they had walked the entire way.

We talked about how Lehi named the river and the valley after his sons because they murmured. We discussed what it means to murmur. As Ethan says, it means to "whine and complain". Then of course he drew a picture about the things we discussed. Before he started, he said, "Wait, I need to see the map before I draw my picture!"

He drew an awesome picture of Israel and the dashes down to the Red Sea to denote the path they traveled. He also drew their campsite with bushes, tents, and other belongings. For some reason, my scanner is acting up and will not scan the entire picture, so I can't upload it unless I take a picture of it and do it that way. I may later, but not now. For now, I'll put it into our scripture study notebook that we are keeping. Ethan is a very creative artist!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Utah Or Bust!

So we leave in just 10 days for Utah! I've never been to Utah and I'm excited. Well, that isn't exactly true. I guess I spent some time there when I was about 2 years old. I've seen pictures of myself there but have no recollection of the events. I just remember my mom telling me that it was the dead of winter and I got water all over me at a drinking fountain. Supposedly (and I am not sure if I'm getting the story entirely straight), it was Sunday, they were all out and about, and nothing was open. I don't remember how, but they had to move heaven and earth to locate dry clothes for me so I wouldn't freeze. Crazy!

Anyway... we are going for a wedding and making it our big vacation for the year. William Matthes is getting married. I can't believe I just put that in writing. To me, Will is just a baby. He's the same age as my brother. (Side note... my brother turns 26 tomorrow!! Will turns 26 on the 10th of June. They are just six weeks apart in age and grew up together.) I have some vivid memories of Will as a really small boy. When he was only 2 or 3 years old, he was really "into" Jefferson Starship's "Sara". I can still see him sitting there, belting out "Saaaaaara.... Saaaaaaara... storms are brewing in your eyes... oh oh ooooo.... Saaaaaara.... SAAAAAAARA...." Too funny. Another popular song when Will was little was "Ballerina Girl" by Lionel Richie. We used sing it to him... "Willemina girl... you - are - so - looooovely...."

Anyway... this little kid is getting MARRIED!! YIKES! Am I really that old?

When we found out a few months ago that Will was engaged, we decided to go. We didn't go for Jeff's or Rudy's weddings. But we'll go for Will's. This is an exciting trip for me. I get to see a lot of people I haven't seen in years. Not only will I get to see their entire family (including Sina, who is coming up from Arizona) but I'll also get to see many cousins from my mom's side that I haven't seen in forever. Anela, Pate, Remi, and others. I haven't met any of their kids yet and they haven't met mine. Should be fun! Plus, I am assuming there may be people at Will's wedding that I knew a long time ago. Not sure on that one though.

Here's the wedding invite:

And here's a picture of Age and Will:

What a cute couple!!

We'll be in Utah for a whole week. Since we are flying, that leaves us pretty much the entire week to do whatever we want. I am not sure exactly where Mike wants to go. I know he wants to show me where he used to live and work. Plus, I think he wants to go and see the MTC. It'll be fun to check out Provo for a day. BYU... the school that rejected me! Ha! Seriously, it's okay. I got a full 2-year seminary scholarship to BYUH, so it's all good. Still, I'd love to see Provo.

I'm excited to see the touristy stuff in Salt Lake City... the temple, temple square, the conference center. I talked to one girl at work and she gave me a list of other things to do and see there. (She's from UT.) I'd love to go up and see the "This is the place" monument. Apparently, there is some cool old stuff there. I'd like to see a couple of other temples too if possible. I'm thinking we can see the Provo temple while we are down there. And while I haven't verified it on the map, supposedly the Jordan River temple is close to where we'll be staying. My mom said she'd be willing to watch the boys for us one morning so we can do a session if we want. Since we'll be attending the wedding at the SLC temple, I'd love to work in a session in another temple, probably Jordan River.

It's going to be so nice to just get away. Then it'll be time to come home and work lots of hours to pay for it all. I think it'll be good though. I always seem to get rejuvinated when we take some time off and just have fun. Essentially, this will be the boys' first time on a plane. Ethan went on one right after he turned 1, but of course he doesn't remember it. That should be interesting. I'm grateful we are only flying into SLC. It's a relatively short trip, unlike Hawaii. Thank goodness for Nintendo DS!!

A Special Date

It was a rough day. I wasn't in the greatest mood. The kids were bored with their surroundings and it seemed like every time I turned around, they were into something else they shouldn't have been. By the time Mike got home, I was pretty fried and frustrated. He told me to take off for awhile... have some time to myself and just be alone. I thought it sounded great! I decided to go and do some shopping... all by myself!! What a concept! I figured I'd hit Costco and Trader Joe's and then I'd leisurely meander through Border's. Hahahaha... that's what I get for making a plan!

I grabbed my shopping list, got my bag and headed off for some much needed alone time. As I approached the car, I could see a shadow in the back seat, happily waving to me. Ethan was in there, all buckled into his seat. As I opened the door, he quickly said, "I'm all ready to go mom!" I said, "No, Ethan. You're staying here." He said, "But I want to come shopping with you mom." And I said, "But you don't understand. The whole point of this trip was for me to go by myself." And to that he replied with a sentence that captured my heart... he threw out the line... I bit... and he reeled me in. He said, "But mom, I love you and I want to spend every waking moment of my life with you!" This... from a six-year-old. How on earth could I have possibly refused???? So I called Mike to let him know that Ethan was with me. He said, "No. You're supposed to go alone." And I said, "No, if you heard what I heard, you'd understand." And I think he got it.

Ethan was thrilled to be able to go out with me. "Just you and me mom. I love spending time with you when it's just the two of us." We got to Costco and he held onto the shopping list and read it off to me. (Have I mentioned how much he captures my heart that he can read so well???? More on that later!) We gathered up a ton of produce at Costco and he helped put each thing into the cart. We sampled ham and cheese roll-ups, chicken chimichangas, and Clif bars. And then we stood in line, where Ethan proudly unloaded the cart for me. And when it came time to pay, he got to swipe the card and then show the receipt to the checker at the door.

Then we headed to Trader Joe's and did a bit of shopping there. Again, he helped in every way possible, including bagging! Such a sweetie!

By this time, Mike had called me to let me know that he and Evan were going out by themselves. So I decided that we'd grab a bite to eat. Ethan chose one of his favorite restaurants... The Black Bear Diner. Mike and Evan tried to invite us along to have dinner with them, but Ethan told his dad that he wanted to spend every moment with his mom and that we already had plans! When we got there, he politely opened the door for me and then very proudly walked up to the hostess and said, "A table for two please." (Okay, can I just say that I'm tearing up as I write this?) She smiled and showed us to a table. He ordered lemonade. I ordered water. As I started to drink he said, "Wait. A toast?" So I held up my glass and he said, "To a great night together!" (More tears now.) We then sat and talked and colored and did puzzles together while we waited for our food. When our food came, he slid over and sat next to me and we shared what we had with each other.

So who is this kid? What happened to my newborn? And who gave him permission to be a mature young man at just six years of age? My heart swelled with pride and I fell in love with him all over again.

After we had dinner, I took him over to the Cold Stone Creamery for dessert. He was thrilled. We ordered our ice cream and sat at a table to eat together. He pulled out a chair for me. And then he graced me with more kind things... "Mom, this is the best date ever. I just love going on dates with you!" Earlier in the evening he had said, "I love you! Some day, I'm gonna marry you! Oh, but darn that law that says we can't marry each other!" I said to him, "It's okay Ethan. I can promise you that when you get old enough, you won't want to marry me. And besides, just knowing that you want to tells me how much you love me and that makes me so happy!"

As we walked back to the car at the end of our evening, he said, "This is some enchanted evening we're having isn't it?" And I couldn't deny it. So much for spending time alone. What started out as a way for me to get away and be by myself turned into the most amazing date a mother could possibly ask for with her six-year-old... and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world!

Ethan - I love you SO MUCH!!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I had an experience this morning that showed me what it means to experience oppression to some degree. In the scheme of life and the big, bad world, this was but a very small blink and a very tiny moment in time. Yet its meaning is no smaller just because only a handful of people experienced it. And it showed me how one small bit of power can so insidiously lead to full blown oppression.

I will include a letter I wrote to my manager this morning because it describes the incident in full. Then I will go on and explain myself further. Here is the letter (with names changed to just initials):


Here is the letter. I was going to give you a point-by-point bulleting of what was said and what happened. But the truth of the matter is that I cannot leave out my personal feelings. This whole incident was about personal feelings and dehumanizing a patient. The way I felt and the emotions that were experienced need to be addressed as much as the words that were said. Quite honestly, this incident changed who I am as a person. It had a very powerful effect on me. Here is the letter:

I'm very sad to have to write this to you today. I was an unfortunate witness to some very inhumane and unprofessional treatment of a human being today. The behavior displayed by the anesthesiologist, Dr. D, was enough to make me sick to my stomach. I will start by saying that I don't think anything I say here today can be truly properly conveyed. It isn't just about the words, but about the tone, mannerisms, volume, inflections, attitude and body language which I cannot portray in a letter.

N.S.had a patient transfer to our facility this morning. This young 20-year-old woman came in because she was in labor and her baby was in a breech position. She needed a c-section. She arrived and preparations were made. Dr. D was the anesthesiologist on duty. When Dr. D arrived on the unit, she appeared very upset and was speaking very loudly. She was demanding with the staff, saying things like, "Get me the c-section paperwork!" There was no kindness and never a "please" was heard.

Once in the O.R., her behavior got grossly worse. As the patient was sitting on the edge of the table, Dr. D was speaking in the rudest manner. She was speaking in a very loud voice and quite frankly, she sounded like a mean army drill sergeant. She never once asked the patient anything, she only demanded. She would shout orders at this scared, young woman, saying things like, "Move forward more! Stick your back out towards me! No, that's not enough!" And then I witnessed her physically put her hand on the patient and shove her into the position she wanted her in, which obviously caused the patient discomfort as evidenced by the reaction on her face. The patient was scared, in pain, and crying as she repeatedly said in a sad voice, "I'm trying. I'm really trying."

At one point, the patient, through tears, said, "I don't think I can take anymore trauma." And to that Dr. D rudely said, "This isn't TRAUMA! This is what EVERY person goes through who has a c-section! You're just experiencing what everyone else does. You're fine. Just do your deep breathing! Remember to breathe so your baby gets the most oxygen!" It was obvious that she was scaring the patient further. Again, she was shouting these orders to the patient and was being very, very curt and abrupt. While she was saying this, she was applying a nasal cannula to the patient and jerked the cannula in place, causing the patient to jump. I saw that most of her hand movements were abrupt and rough.

At one point while she was attempting to put in the spinal, the patient was startled and she jerked. Dr. D was very condescending to the patient and asked her, "Are you sixteen years old? Are you sixteen?" And the patient quietly said, "No, I'm 20." And then Dr. D said, "You're NOT sixteen! You're 20. You can handle this."

When the curtain was put up, I asked if it was okay to bring the woman's husband in. The poor patient had tears streaming down her face and said, "Yes. Please." Dr. D then curtly said, "NO! Not until after the test is done! And there will only be ONE person in this O.R.!" Once it was confirmed that she was indeed numb, she simply looked at me, flicked her head, pointed her finger toward the door and said, "Now!" That was my cue that it was okay to bring in the husband.

I was shooting looks back and forth to the circulating nurse, T. I could tell she was just as angry and appalled as I was. When I walked out of the O.R. and out to the nurses station, the staff could see on my face that I was upset. I was shaking and almost hyperventilating and trying hard not fall apart in front of everyone. Later on, T and I went into a private room to debrief and I broke down and cried. I was in shock. It was inconceivable to me that in 2008, I had witnessed such horrific treatment by a physician. Neither of us could believe what we had just seen and heard. It was heart-wrenching to see this young woman dehumanized by someone who is supposed to have the patient's well-being at the forefront of her practice. Her behavior was not at all in line with the way that the nursing staff in the birth center treats their patients; nor was it in line with any of the four Franciscan values of reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence. I was embarrassed to be in her presence.

I've worked in health care for 18 years, 10 of those as a registered nurse. I've seen my fair share of negative situations and rude behavior but nothing compares to what I was unfortunate enough to witness this morning. I would appreciate receiving some confirmation that Dr. D has been spoken to regarding this incident. I will not work alongside a person who dehumanizes another human being and displays such callous disregard for the human spirit.

It is known that women remember their birth experiences for the rest of their lives. I hope and pray that when this patient looks back at her birth experience, which occurred in a very different manner than she had planned, that she will be able to remember the beauty and joy of her miracle and that she will be able to overlook the disgusting behavior displayed by one in the operating room.

I’d like to expand on the above thoughts a bit here.

While I was standing in the operating room this morning, I listened and observed. Unfortunately, that’s all I did. I was appalled and sickened, and yet I did nothing to stop the behavior. I stood back and held my tongue, trapped in the belief that it was best not to “create waves”. After the whole incident was over, the other nurse and I had a talk about what had happened. We both agreed that we were shocked that nobody, including ourselves, called that doctor out and made her answer, right then and there for her behaviors. Ever since then, I have been thinking about this and it’s been weighing quite heavily on my mind.

How does this happen? How is it that a whole room full of people can stand idly by and watch a young woman become dehumanized by someone else in the room? How is it that physicians have somehow been put on pedestals in society? What makes them “better” than anyone else? Why are nurses so afraid to speak up against doctors? I can guarantee that if it had been an O.R. technician who was speaking to the patient that way, every nurse in the room would have said something. But somehow, we think we are immune to speaking up to doctors. At the time that the incident was occurring, standing back and remaining quiet seemed like an okay thing to do. However, looking back on it in hindsight, I am ridiculously ashamed that I allowed myself to be bullied and that I gave up the courage to stand up for another human being.

Standing up for someone is a gamble. If you get lucky, the others around you might step in and join forces with you. But if you aren’t lucky, you’ll be left alone, open and vulnerable if no one else agrees with you or if they aren’t willing to stand up and take a stand. But how is it that we place so much importance on that… more importance than standing up for a human being who is being victimized?

As I write this I am reminded of a talk that Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave at this month’s General Conference. His talk was titled Concern For the One. He related the following story from his own childhood:

I remember when I was young, there was an older boy who was physically and mentally disabled. He had a speech impediment and walked with difficulty. The boys used to make fun of him. They teased and taunted him until sometimes he would cry.

I can still hear his voice: “You’re not kind to me,” he said. And still they would ridicule him, push him, and make jokes about him.

One day I could bear it no longer. Although I was only seven years old, the Lord gave me the courage to stand up to my friends.

“Don’t touch him,” I said to them. “Stop teasing him. Be kind. He is a child of God!”

My friends stepped back and turned away.

I wondered at the time if my boldness would jeopardize my relationship with them. But the opposite happened. From that day onward, my friends and I became closer. They showed increased compassion for the boy. They became better human beings. To my knowledge, they never taunted him again.

I think this is an amazing story because I believe it illustrates the way we should be acting at all times.

If we are not willing to stand up to those who abuse position and power in the small ways, how are we to stand up to the Goliaths? We must practice standing tall in small ways. The bigger ways come with time.

I am also reminded of an experience I had while walking through the Trader Joe's a couple of years ago. The boys were very small, probably 3 and 4 years old. They were being their normal, rowdy, toddler selves and I was getting impatient with them, having to peel them off the shelves every few minutes. My voice was getting louder and more impatient. Without any warning, a woman looked at me and smiled. She was probably in her 60s. She touched my arm and said, "Just love 'em honey. Just love 'em. I lost my little girl when she was very small and I'd give anything to have her back. Just love 'em." Oh my... my heart stung, but I was so grateful for that experience, even in the moment. It took no small amount of bravery for her to walk up to a complete stranger and call me out on my behavior. How was she to know how I would react? How was she to know that I wouldn't lash out at her? She didn't. I'd like to think she was led by the Spirit to speak to me. And I was corrected and humbled and doused myself in patience that day.

My heart aches for the experience that the young mother went through this morning. But I will take that experience and learn from it and hopefully improve my life accordingly.

If You Get a Chance...

I found a really cool greeting card at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago. I almost bought it but changed my mind. But I found myself regretting that decision but could never find the card again on subsequent visits. Last night I stopped by there on the way to work and spied the card. I hopped out of line and jumped over two lines just to get my hands on it. It was $.99 well spent. The picture on it is so serene and the message is wonderful. This message has applications to so many aspects of life.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mystery Solved!

I'm so happy. My friend Juli at work is a garden guru. I knew that if I showed her the pictures of our backyard flora, she'd be able to identify them for me!! The bright pink
flowers to the left are hyacinths! They show up in our garden in bright pink, light pink, white, and purple. The sweet little purple flowers to the right are called grape hyacinths! I'm so excited to know what these are!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Full Moon and More Snow?!

So here it is, the middle of APRIL... and we have more snow! Granted, it's not sticking and it's not all that much, but it's SNOW... in APRIL! I first noticed it while I was at work last night. I was in a patient's room, chatting with the entire family when we all looked over and noticed it looked like Christmas outside! It's so strange. Poor Mother Nature... she's all mixed up. I'm certainly glad I didn't put any tomato starts in the ground. Gosh... all the plants always say, "Put in the ground when any danger of frost is past"... so how am I supposed to know when that is? We keep having surprise snowfalls!

It was a full moon last night. Mike was so sweet to call me up at work and ask how I was doing. It's a known fact in the world of nursing that weird things happen when there are full moons. And anytime there is a full moon, I seem to have a horrible night. When Mike called, I was actually in a patient's room. She was completely dilated and beginning to push. Funny... the first time I walked into her room and looked at her for the first time, I knew she would not be pushing her baby out, no matter how hard she tried. I don't know how I know that, but I typically can tell, and this time was no different. She is an older first time mom (older than me) and kept saying, "I'm nervous". And her pushing skills left something to be desired. Eventually the doctor tried forceps. That is always horrific to watch. At one point, the husband stood up and walked out. I thought he felt faint and followed him out to get him some juice and make sure he was okay. Then I realized that he wasn't faint. He was upset and crying, terrified that his wife and baby were not okay. I put my arm around him as he sobbed and it just broke my heart. We got him some juice and explained what was happening. Finally, the doctor came out and let him know we'd be doing a c-section and he was relieved.

This couple's little girl was GORGEOUS... I mean really, really gorgeous. When the doctor pulled her out, we heard the loudest noise coming from behind the curtain. This sweet father, who had moments before felt terrified, was elated. He was sobbing with joy... absolutely sobbing and crying and you could tell that his emotions were just bursting through his chest. He got up from his little stool and started walking around the O.R., hugging everyone and thanking everyone. It was the sweetest thing I've ever seen and we all got a little teary eyed! Later, when he and I went to the nursery with the baby, he pulled out his little I-pod and showed me pictures... pictures of his gorgeous wife, all big and pregnant with a bare belly. And you could see the absolute love and devotion in his eyes as he spoke of her. It was obvious that they are soul mates. So, so sweet!

Unfortunately, the other birth that occurred was under far different circumstances. This mother was young enough to be the other mother's daughter and this was her 4th child. All her other children have been taken away and placed in foster care because she harmed one of them very, very heinously. It was hard to be in front her, seeing her try to play the staff and pit one against another. You could tell that this girl was very disturbed. And when I looked at her sweet little boy, my heart bled for him. My heart bled because this sweet young man will have one of two fates in his early life... he'll either raised by her or else he'll endure the foster system as his siblings before him have. She doesn't get to take him home and she knows that. I wonder what his fate will be. It saddens me to think about it.

These experiences made me so grateful for what I have and made me stop and count my blessings. I am blessed to have been raised by a mother who loved me. I am blessed to be married to man who respects me and who is the most amazing father on the planet. I am blessed to have two little boys to borrow and love... and they are such a ray of sunshine to my life! How lucky I am and how blessed I am. Life is good.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It Mattereth Not

I subscribe to a daily web service called "LDS Gems". Each day, a new thought... or mini devotional, if you will... is sent to me. I archive them. Today's thought was really good. I recently had a conversation with someone where I said that nobody can make another person feel guilty or offended. That person chooses to feel that way. If someone feels offended, it is no one else's fault; it's a self-induced emotion. This is such a wonderful message because it really reinforces that we are free and in control of our own thoughts and feelings. We cannot control what others do, but we can control our reactions. We can choose to be offended and hurt, or we can choose to brush off those comments and walk with our heads held high, safe and secure in the knowledge of who we are.

I am reminded of a scripture that I learned many years ago and I think it is appropriate in this context:
2 Nephi 2:27
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Here is today's daily gem as it was sent in the email:

Daily Gems
It Mattereth Not

"During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran 'by the way of condemnation' (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, 'Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. . . . And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart' (Alma 61:2, 9).

"One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended--and to say with Pahoran, 'it mattereth not.'"

(David A. Bednar, "And Nothing Shall Offend Them," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 91)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pot Roast

I LOVE pot roast. A good pot roast warms not only the body but the soul as well. I just put a roast on to cook and even though it's just getting started, I already like the way my hands smell... seared beef, garlic, onion, and Italian seasonings. YUM! Since I'm planning on turning this blog into a book at the end of the year, I wanted to be sure and include the recipe I use for pot roast. But let me back up a bit first...

Last year (almost one year ago!) for Mother's Day, I got my first set of enameled cast iron cookware. The brand is Le Creuset and it's the most amazing cookware on the market! No lie... but it comes with a pretty price tag. However, it's worth every single penny. I've always enjoyed cooking, but having amazing cookware makes it that much more enjoyable. Besides, using my colorful cast iron cookware takes me back to my childhood... to long weekends and summers visiting my Tutu on the Big Island. She was an amazing cook and also used really good cookware. Just writing this makes me so badly want to visit the past... just to stand next to her in the kitchen one more time and watch her cook... and smell the smells... and be with her. I miss her so much. I really, really miss her.

So last year, in order to break in my new cookware, I went in search of a really good pot roast recipe. I surfed several sites online and finally found one worthy of trying. I was impressed with all the comments on the site. People made comments about how it was the best roast they'd eaten in 30-something years, how they'd never succeeded in making a good roast until they tried this recipe, and how they were finally happy to make a piece of meat that could be considered edible (instead of being used as a hockey puck!) I won't include all the comments here... there are far too many!

So I tried it. I made this recipe in my brand new, lovely cherry red French oven and it was spectacular! I've made it a few times since then and almost always have unbelievably delicious results. So here it is the recipe. I looked on the website and the author (Elise Bauer) says that she generally doesn't mind her photos being used on other sites as long as there is a link back to the original recipe. So here is the link to the Pot Roast recipe! And here it is, in all its glory:

Pot Roast

Pot roast was a standard growing up, and still continues to be in my parent's household. It requires slow cooking over low heat to ensure tender, flavorful meat. Pot roasts typically use the tougher cuts of beef - a chuck roast or shoulder roast - which have the most flavor. The slow cooking at low heat is what melts the tough connective tissue between the muscle fibers, leaving you with tender meat that flakes apart with your fork. This is my mother's tried and true recipe for pot roast. She only adds a half cup of liquid to the pot because she's able to keep the heat very low and her pot has a tight cover.

  • 3 1/2 lb of beef shoulder or boneless chuck roast
  • 1 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
  • Salt, pepper, italian seasoning to taste
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped or sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • Several carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise

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1 Use a thick-bottomed covered pot, such as a dutch oven, just large enough to hold roast and vegetables. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil on medium high heat (hot enough to sear the meat). Sprinkle and rub salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning all over the meat. Brown roast in pot, all over, several minutes on each side. Don't move the roast while a side is browning, or it won't brown well.

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2 When roast is browned, lift up the meat and add garlic and chopped onion to the bottom of the pan. Let the roast sit on top of the onions. Add 1/2 cup of red wine. Cover. Bring to simmer and then adjust the heat down to the lowest heat possible to maintain a low simmer when covered (we cook our roast on the warm setting of our electric range)*.

3 Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until meat is tender. (If you are using a pressure cooker, cut the time by half). Near the end of the cooking, add carrots, cook until tender, about an additional 10 minutes.

After cooking 3 1/2 hours, before adding the carrots. Note how much liquid has been released by the meat. This comes from slow cooking at a very low temperature. If your pot roast is too dry, make sure the pan you are using has a tight fitting lid and that you are cooking at the lowest possible heat to maintain the low simmering.

Serves 4. Suggest serving with green beans and potatoes

*If you use a gas range, you may find difficulty getting the flame low enough. A tip I recently read in Cook's Illustrated suggests tightly rolling up some aluminum foil, shaping it into a skinny donut, and putting that on top of the burner to create a little more distance between the range and the pan. If your pot roast is turning out too dry, you might want to try this tip.

I Am the Gardener

In my previous post about our backyard beauty, I wrote a little blurb about our apple tree. When we first moved into our house, we had no idea what the tree was. We just knew that it gave us pretty little flowers in the spring and nice green leaves in the summer and fall. We never realized its full potential because we had never taken the time to take care of it by pruning it.

Pruning is such an interesting concept. It's fascinating to me that we can make something better by cutting it and hurting it. It seems like such a dichotomy. And yet it's true. It was only after we pruned the tree (some 6 years later) that the tree was able to realize its potential and bear fruit.

This reminds me of a lesson I learned many years ago in early morning seminary. It was a class taught by Sister Diane Hallstrom (wife of Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who also happened to be my bishop and stake president while growing up in Hawaii!) She was an amazing teacher who poured her whole heart and soul into the seminary program. Looking back with adult eyes, I can see so many instances where she probably got extremely frustrated with our large classes. But she stuck it out and I am so grateful. The early morning seminary program changed me as a person. I really do feel that I would not be the same had I not attended that amazing program.

Back on track here... so Sister Hallstrom told a story that burned itself onto my heart and has saved me on a few occasions. It was a story told by President Hugh B. Brown. Here is that story:

You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what He ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than He does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that He knew best.

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and clipped it back until there was nothing left but stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it and smiled and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush say this:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’ ”

Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. The one man between me and the office of general in the British Army became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner.

I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the general, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for 10 years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and on his desk, I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly, and went out.

I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure.” When I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have Mutual. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their singing:

“But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”
(Hymns, no. 270)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to Him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.

Many of you are going to have very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried. I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, God is the gardener here. He knows what He wants you to be. Submit yourselves to His will. Be worthy of His blessings, and you will get His blessings.

What an amazing story. I have had challenges in life that I wondered how I would overcome. One challenge in particular left me wondering if Heavenly Father had forgotten me in this big world. I wondered how He could abandon me and how He could leave me to suffer without His guidance. And then I was reminded of the Gardener story and I realized that the Lord hadn't forgotten me at all. He was simply pruning me... molding me... giving me life experiences that would change me into the person He wanted me to become. I realize that it's a work in progress and that I will continue to be challenged and face seemingly insurmountable circumstances as the Lord molds me with His own two hands. The difficult part is remembering that when I'm in the midst of such challenges and when I feel alone and abandoned the most.

I am also reminded of the experiences that Joseph Smith endured as a prophet of God. When I think about all of the challenges he faced and the difficult, tiring, and painful things he went through, I have such admiration and respect for him. As he sat in Liberty Jail, a prisoner for doing what he was commanded to do, the Lord spoke to him and the words which He spake make me cry each time I read them:

D&C 122:7-9
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murders, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the wide mouth after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

Beauty in the Backyard

Our backyard isn't anything special. There is no unique landscaping or anything like that. And at first glance, it looks rather boring and plain. But if one looks with a more careful survey and a critical eye, there is beauty to be found in that simple place. Daffodils, tulips, rhododendrons, apple blossoms, and other beauties that I don't know the names of. Here's a sampling of what's happening in our backyard right now.

I think we only have a few daffodils left. Here is one of them:

I don't even know what these flowers are called. Isn't that sad? I've lived here for over 7 years and I've never taken the time to find out. I work with a "garden guru". I'll have to show her these pictures and see what she can tell me! The next three are photos of these beauties. Here I've shown the pink, white, and fuchsia varieties. They also come in purple, though I wasn't able to capture a good image of those:

These little purple flowers are so sweet and dainty. They stand only a few inches off the ground and are tiny! I have no idea what they are but they always bloom in the space around the tulips:

The tulips aren't quite in bloom yet! But they are certainly trying! I am hoping we can make it up to the Skagit Valley area and see the tulips in bloom this year. The beauty is breathtaking. It's just rows upon rows of gorgeous tulips! Here a few of our buds, stretching and trying:

Soon the rhodies will be in full bloom! One great thing about the rhodies is that you really can't kill them. They are super hardy. The rhododendron is the state flower of Washington. Soon this little bud will be a big, fat, beautiful flower:

Apple blossoms!! Interestingly, it took six years of living on this property to figure out that these little guys were apple blossoms! When we were getting our house ready to sell last year, we knew we had to revamp our backyard a bit. (Okay, a lot!) We've always had this simple but pretty tree in the backyard. Every spring it flowers and then we get to enjoy nice green leaves. And every fall the leaves all fall off. But that was it. Well, last summer we decided that it needed cutting back a bit, so we snipped off branches here and there. Well lo and behold, last year I was standing in my bathroom, looking out the window and thought my eyes had deceived me. For the first time ever, I saw a few little green balls on the tree and wondered what they could be. (Hey, I grew up in Hawaii! How was I supposed to know?) Over the course of the summer and into the fall, I watched these little balls magically turn into gorgeous apples! APPLES! Who knew? On the one hand, I was sort of sad that we had missed out on this for so many years. But on the other, I was just happy to discover that we own an apple tree! How exciting. So a few months ago, we pruned it a bit again. Mike said he got a little "prune happy" and probably cut it back a little more than he should have. I guess from all the reading I've done, those in the know say you're only supposed to prune it a little bit each time. So we'll see what we get this year, if anything. But I have a whole new appreciation for these sweet little flowers!!

And let us not forget our cherry tree we planted in February! It is coming along so nicely! I took pictures when we planted it, a month later in March, and now another month later in April. I decided that since it's Ethan's, I'd have him stand next to it so we can monitor the progress that way. He was so happy to pose next to his tree for me today:

I'm so impressed with the amount of foliage on the little branches. This is more growth than I had expected in the first couple of months. How exciting! None of these leaves were here two months ago!!

And last but not least... we did plant two lilac trees as well. However, they haven't done much of anything and so I didn't take any pictures. I'll photograph those when they change. I am simply assuming they are slower growers. The few leaves that they do have are still intact and still look healthy. I would think if the plant was having problems, it would look like it was in trouble. Ours don't, they just haven't changed.

So there we have it... beauty in our backyard. As soon as we get back from Utah (May 10), I'm hoping to put some tomato and zucchini plants in the backyard as well. I only have one little spot that gets direct sun during the day. But I've grown tomatoes back there before and they've done well. The boys are excited to try their hands at that this year! I haven't done it for the past few years because the boys were so little and they would go out and pick all the tomatoes off when they were tiny green balls. It was so frustrating. Now they are old enough to understand! Plus, I'd like to also grow potatoes with them. I hear they are easy to do in old tires. We'll see if I can get my hands on some.