Dec 31 2015

A Tribute to Kathryn H. Kidd

Published by under General

Due to the busy holidays and long travel distances, many who would have liked to attend Kathy’s funeral could not.  In response to many requests, I would like to share some of the pictures, comments, and memories of that event.  It was a wonderful service, full of both laughter and tears.  I hope Kathy was there in spirit (and I think she was), and I hope she enjoyed reviewing the joys and triumphs of her exemplary life.  We miss you already Kathy, but we draw comfort from the words, pictures, and memories that you left behind.  –  Fluffy.

Funeral Program

(click any image to enlarge)


Talk by John Karren

(John and his wife Michelle have been friends for many years, and John is currently assigned as one of our Home Teachers.)

As we all know, Kathy was a prolific writer and self-declared “Queen of the Universe.”   When you open her webpage you are greeted with “Welcome to Planet Kathy. The unusual universe of Kathryn H. Kidd.”

As the opening speaker and looking at today’s line up of other speakers 0n the program AND because Kathy can’t say it herself …“Welcome to this celebration on Planet Kathy of what will be a memorable and ‘unusual’ tribute to Kathryn H. Kidd.”

Kathy and Clark are a pair of well-traveled companions that have documented their trips with eclectic photos of food, hotel lobbies, boardwalks and roadside signs.   On a recent trip to Atlantic City, Kathy snapped a photo of a sign that captures the force of nature that she was in this world. “Be the Kind of Woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the Devil says, “Oh no, She’s is up!” (Living the High Life on a Budget.)

If Kathy had a motto for her life I think it would be, “It’s much more fun to believe in the possibility than to be discouraged by the improbability.” (Quoted from Dr. Julia Ogden, Murdoch Mysteries)   When asked how she was, a cheery “Life is good!” would be her reply.

I love and adore Kathryn H. Kidd.   I mourn our loss of her and rejoice in her life and her love for me and for us all. We are going to hear stories from her life that will amaze us.   She was very quiet about the amazing things she did and was doing. Even though she had a big personality and a big heart, she was subtle in her service to others.

I was touched and honored to know that Kathy asked that I speak at her funeral. I thought at first it was because I was her Home Teacher for the last several years but then I realized it was because I was her favorite. Sorry Clark! I didn’t know if you knew that. When I tell my wife, Michelle, this fact she likes to correct and remind me that it is she who is Kathy’s favorite. Now, I am sure many of you out there are disagreeing with me right now and thinking, “Hey wait a minute. I am her favorite.”   And this was Kathy’s greatest gift . . . making us all feel as if Planet Kathy orbited around us. As the Queen of the Universe, she put us in the middle of it and made us feel like the shining stars of her universe. She served us all so well by simply loving us and showing how interested she was in our lives.

Her interest came as a thank you card sent after a talk or lesson given at church, a covetous mention of you in her writings or emailing a photo she took of you at one of the events she and Clark attended (birthday, baptism, graduation, ward party, white elephant exchange). I am pretty sure that she is floating around this chapel right now with her purple camera around her neck taking pictures of all of us for the blog she is working on now in the Spirit world.   Be careful though, because she never gave you time to pose for a photo. She loved posting the candid shots, no matter how terrible you looked in them with a mouth full of food or a gape mid-sentence. Here is my pose for you today Kathy in one of your favorite ties (pausing and smiling up at her).

Another way she made us feel special was the nicknames she has for us. Our favorite of course is the nickname of her eternal love “Fluffy” and then coming in second is “Sweet Pea”.   How many of you would get an enthusiastic “Hello Sweet Pea” when you saw her? (Note: Over half the congregation raised their hands)

I was crushed when I overheard her calling someone else Sweet Pea. I always thought that was her special name for me but I still think she says it to me with a little more sparkle than the rest, because of course, I am her favorite.   But in reality I think two weeks ago when she crossed over the veil and met the Savior she greeted him with a, “Hi Sweet Pea, I am glad I finally croaked because you are my favorite.”   She had a deep love and true understanding of the principles of salvation and the Savior’s personal role in our lives and his message of loving us as his unconditional favorite.

Love is one of the most powerful positive forces in existence. It is one of the strongest statements in all of scripture, Moroni wrote: “If ye have not charity, ye are nothing” (Moroni 7:46). Kathy understood this so well. She knew that no matter how competent we might be, how bright, how talented, how athletic, how attractive, how hardworking—if we are not acting out of love, we are nothing. Kathy was one of those people that did not often think of herself. She was not trying to prove anything to anyone. She simply reached out in love and looked for those moments to lift others.

She understood the real power in simply reaching out to others and becoming acquainted. She knew that it started with being friendly and interested in others, because that was the way to move from acquaintance to lasting friendship.

She had a special kind of love where she rejoiced more in the happiness of others than in her own successes. She was like Alma when he met Ammon and his brothers following their mission to the Lamanites.   Alma rejoiced in his own success, but he rejoiced even more in the success of his brethren: “Now, when I think of the success of these my brethren my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy” (Alma 29:16). She not only rejoiced in others’ joy but understood others’ pain and needs. She was motivated by wanting all those that she loved to be with her in eternity and she loved us that way.

In one of her blog postings she wrote: “I don’t know about you but the Savior’s banquet is one that I do not want to miss. I want to be at the table, with my napkin in my lap and I want my loved ones to be there with me. If there is an oil lamp that is required of us, I want mine filled, with its wick trimmed and ready to go. I want your lamps filled, too, because I care about you.” (Party of Two.)

She understood that when others’ needs start to matter more than our own, and when others’ successes and happiness are more exciting to us than our own, we are beginning to experience the kind of love that our Father in Heaven, our Savior and Kathy have for us. It is a love without dimension. It has no boundaries, no limitations. It is pure. It is infinite. It is eternal. Oh, how I want to have more of this kind of love for others as Kathy showed us.   Thanks Kathy for teaching us all.

She taught us that when we care for someone, we want to do something for them. Kathy was convinced that there are people all around us who needed the specific caring that only we could give. She believed that we all need to open our eyes and our ears and our hearts so that we specifically know what we need to do for others.

One of my favorites of her blog postings captures her philosophy perfectly on giving help. It is about a group of well-meaning trivia cruise mates that asked to join Kathy and Clark’s rising fame as the dynamic duo known to all as the Virginia Hams: “How many times have I thought I was helping someone, only to do exactly the wrong thing that was needed? Instead of looking at what is comfortable for us to offer, we should look instead to see what the person on the other end” (Dealing with Helpful People.)

We are all on our way to somewhere. We are all making our way forward in life. We are either giving light or taking light from each other as we move forward on our way. Kathy was a bright light giver despite her many obstacles and limitations. Many of us would have only shone a dim light under her circumstances.

She taught us how to give when she wrote: “This life is not supposed to be fair. It is a series of tests, and how we respond to those tests measure our worth as human beings.

As the bible says in Matthew, “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).   No matter how many good works you do, it is not an insurance policy. Bad things are going to happen to you.   Where will we be when one of our friends is caught in a thunderstorm? Will be be safely at home, curled up with a book, or will we be standing next to them, holding an umbrella?”(Floods of Water and Blessings.)

Kathy, we know that you will continue to orbit our lives holding an umbrella over us when it rains because you are our friend and you love us. You have inspired all of us to make the Savior our favorite through your example among us. When we do as you have done then we are able to bring His love and salvation into the lives of others as our favorites to honor you and him. Thank you Kathy for the love and light that you were and will forever be to us all.

Talk by Richard L. Brown

(Dick and Hazie Brown have been friends since we moved to Virginia in 1987.  We have worked together with them in church assignments, and played together with them on cruises and in other adventures.)

Today we have met to dedicate this time and this service to the memory of our much loved friend Kathy Kidd. Even though this is a difficult time for all who knew and loved Kathy, it is altogether proper for us to reflect upon the noble things of her life and celebrate her goodness in cherished memories. Kathy had some remarkable qualities that often lifted and inspired others. She was genuinely concerned about others, was kind and had a giving spirit. She was also not shy about sharing her thoughts and opinions on almost any subject. Although she had some significant physical limitations, she would do whatever ever she could to bring love, hope and good will to others. Kathy was a sterling example of someone who was positive, upbeat and cheerful in spite of unending health challenges in her life. We would talk frequently about the chronic pain and discomfort she endured and how difficult it was for her to get around and perform the simple tasks of life that most of us just don’t think about. But in spite of her circumstance, she refused to let it dampen her cheerfulness, her enthusiasm, her desire to explore the world and seek new adventures, and her commitment to serve others.   She and Clark went on ocean cruises by themselves and with friends; she helped fix meals for participants in youth conferences and many, many other church activities; she planned and organized celebrations and events on behalf of others, taught classes, and did much good while suffering with pain and hardship that would have rendered many of us shut-ins. No matter how she felt, no matter the adversity or the hardship she would always say, “life is good,” and when asked how she felt, would often declare, “just spiffy.” I truly admired her determination to face the trials of life in a cheerful, positive way. She frequently expressed gratitude for her blessings—for her loving husband, her friends, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and just the joy of another day. She never gave up. Where most of us might simply quit trying, she would press on—struggling and suffering, but happy and grateful. To me, Kathy was a marvelous example of someone who was “patient, full of love, willing to submit cheerfully to the all the will of the Lord.” (Mosiah 3:19; Mosiah 24:15). The memory of that example will always be a rich blessing in my life.

The sorrow we all feel today will abate with time, but it will never entirely disappear. It will return in flashes on anniversaries and birthdays, holidays and special occasions, and will creep up slowly on lonely nights. The hurt is real. Only its intensity varies. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: The Lord has said, “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch as thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” To take sorrow out of death would be to take love out of life. And Kathy’s example of her love for God and for others will help sustain those of us who had the privilege of associating with her.

Yet, like all of life’s experiences, Kathy’s passing can give us opportunity to gain perspective and understanding of many of the feelings and emotions which govern our earthly existence.   Today is a time for remembering the happiness of the past, feeling the sorrow of the present, and anticipating the joy of the future. It is a time for introspection, contemplation and resolution; a time for sorrow, but also a time for rejoicing.

Death is that inevitable part of life that is anticipated by some, feared by many and understood by few. It often comes at a time when we expect it least, interrupting the joys of life and changing our dreams for the future. It is indiscriminate. Infants, children, youth and aged alike are visited with what can often seem like illogical attack. In certain situations, it comes as an angel of mercy, but for the most part we think of it as an enemy, intent on extinguishing the light of life and destroying the prospect of happiness. But Kathy made it very clear that she did not fear death, instead, she looked forward to it as a gateway to a new adventure in life. Kathy had an abiding faith in the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings of the resurrection. She always took special comfort in the teachings of the prophet Alma when he said, “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.” (Alma 40:23) She especially looked forward to the proper and perfect frame promise of this scripture.

Kathy also had an abiding hope in Christ. “I am the resurrection, and the light,” He taught. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” The scriptures teach us: “Death hath passed upon all men to fulfill the merciful plan of the great Creator.” Birth and death are both essential steps in the unfolding adventure of eternity. Those like Kathy who place their hope in Christ and in the power of His resurrection find that death is not to be feared but is to be reverenced and appreciated as an important step in our Father’s eternal plan to exalt His children.

If we are to place death in its proper perspective in the eternal scheme of things, we must first learn the purposes of life. We must know from whence we came, whose we are, and why He placed us here. Only then can we envision whither we shall go in the providence of Him who made us. The faith that sustains this knowledge was ever a part of Kathy’s life. She believed that we are spirit children of heavenly parents who lived with them pre-mortally; and that we were sent here, into this an imperfect world, that we might learn good from evil and have the opportunity to feel the perfect, infinite love of God through our earthly experiences. She understood that life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. Before we came to this life we knew of and wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability. This life was to become a probationary state: a time to prepare to meet God. (Alma 23:24). But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—not around—the portals of death. We are born to die and we die to live. (2 Cor. 6:9). As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven.

The scriptures teach that death is essential to happiness. The prophet Alma taught, “Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.” (Alma 42:8; 2 Ne. 9:6) But that happiness does not come without trial. God in His infinite wisdom gives us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls, temptations to test our strength, and sickness that we might learn patience. (Pres. Kimball)

As spirit children of a loving Father, and before we came to this earth, we shouted for joy at the privilege of becoming mortal. We now sing praises to the great Redeemer for the privilege of passing from this life; because without death and the resurrection we could not be raised in immortal glory and gain eternal life.

Kathy knew and understood these truths. She knew that if we are true and faithful in this life we will not fall by the wayside in the life to come, and her life was an example of her testimony of that knowledge. Her faith exemplified that of our pioneer forbearers when they sang:

And should we die before our journey’s through,

Happy day! All is Well!

We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;

With the just we shall dwell!

I am certain that at this time Kathy is indeed happy. She is happy to be free from the infirmities and sorrows of the flesh and is rejoicing in her opportunity to serve God and others without physical limitations.

Now we should not seek death, though it is a part of the merciful plan of the great Creator. Rather we should rejoice in life, and desire to live as long as we can be of service to our fellowmen. But come what may, anything that befalls us here in mortality is but for a small moment, and if we are true and faithful God will eventually exalt us on high.

We shall, through Christ, be raised from mortality to immortality, from corruption to incorruption. We shall come forth in physical perfection.

We rejoice in life. We rejoice in death. We have no desires except to do the will of Him whose we are and to dwell with Him in His kingdom at the appointed time. Our separation from Kathy is only temporary. Our challenge is to follow her example and submit to the will of the Father, patiently enduring all things that, having taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, we might stand before Him and hear him say to us, “Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant. . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt 25:21). Jesus Christ is the key. It is through Him and by Him and of Him that we will once again be able to rejoice with Kathy in our eternal service to God.

This hope in Christ and His promise of the resurrection to an incorruptible, eternal life brings to those of us who believe in Him comfort, strength, and peace.

It is my testimony that this hope in the resurrection through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is available to all of God’s children. It does not matter to which faith they belong, into which race they were born, or what their destiny has been in this mortal existence. I know that because of our Savior’s infinite sacrifice, we will all be resurrected and will live again. We will have the opportunity to meet and greet those we have loved in this life as well as those we knew and loved before. For as the scripture reminds us, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

As we mourn Kathy’s passing, may God bless each of us with the comfort and peace that comes from a hope in Christ and a knowledge and understanding of God’s divine plan for the salvation of each of His children, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Vocal Solo by Orson Scott Card

(Our long-time friend Scott Card honored Kathy with a beautiful solo rendition of Amazing Grace.  I’m sorry that we did not think to record it, because it was wonderful.)

Eulogy by Dale Van Atta

(Dale and Kathy were friends since attending BYU together in the early 1970s.  Dale and his wife Lynne moved to Virginia from Utah, and then the Kidds followed a few years later and moved into the same ward.  Clark provided the foundation for this eulogy, but then Dale fleshed it out with many of his most-cherished memories of Kathy.)

This will be a tribute from a writer to a writer, with a great assist from another writer — her husband Clark, who provided a fine template on which to build this eulogy.

I was deeply honored when Clark asked me to deliver Kathy’s eulogy. In the case that she preceded me in death, Kathy herself had asked me on several occasions to speak at her funeral, and secured a promise for same. I am here in humble fulfillment of that pledge to my beautiful and ever-faithful friend of 44 years.

So we begin. Strap yourself in and settle back for the Ride of Kathy’s Life.

The first Hurricane Katrina — Kathy — hit New Orleans 65 years ago. She made landfall in a local hospital close to her mother — fortunately — on April 3, 1950. Kathy was a normal new born, which meant she came out looking like Winston Churchill. “Having never been a mother,” she wrote, “I can’t see the difference in babies when they are small. They all look like Winston Churchill to me.” (From Flat to Fluffy.)

She was given the name Patricia Kathryn Helms, but she never saw herself as a Patricia. Too genteel, perhaps.

In college, she often signed her name, P.K. Helms, which her friends suggested meant “Pretty Kool” until she derided them for mis-spelling “cool” with a “k.” She was a stickler for proper spelling and grammar. “Kathryn the Great” would suffice, she announced. After she married Clark, whose love elevated her self-confidence to more galactic dimensions, she let it be known that “Queen of the Universe” was the preferred sobriquet.

Her entrance into the Helms household was followed two years later by sister Sandee, whose daughter is with us today, and, two years after that, a second sister, Susie, who has also come from Louisiana to be here for Kathy.

The Helms family of five lived in various places around New Orleans, eventually settling in the small town of Mandeville, located 35 miles from New Orleans across the Lake Pontchartrain (Pon-cha-train) Causeway.

The Helms sisters got into their fair share of trouble as youngsters. One day their parents walked into the living room to find Kathy gleefully sticking scissors into the new sofa. She and Sandee had been eating the stuffing that came out, which may explain Kathy’s lifetime love of Thanksgiving stuffing.

At a young age, Kathy was diagnosed with dyslexia, and her doctor recommended they solve that problem by teaching her to read. One result of this was that Kathy always had the ability to write cursive backwards. She would often sign her name backwards, but could actually write any text that way. Another positive result of this treatment was Kathy’s lifetime love of reading and books.

Kathy was a precocious child, and she was never afraid to tell someone when they were wrong. One of her high school teachers later admitted that all the teachers were afraid of her, as they were embarrassed when she corrected their grammar or other mistakes in front of the other students. Kathy sometimes described herself at this age as “a child only a mother could love,” and her father likely agreed the day he came home to find his young princess had just allowed a stranger to walk off with the family’s brand new lawnmower because the stranger told Kathy that her father had asked him (the stranger) to fix her father’s allegedly botched assembly job on the mower. As would often be the case, she was far more open and trusting than life showed her she should be.

Consider this powerful story she told about an experience in second or third grade.

“I desperately wanted to take ballet lessons,” she said. “Half the little girls in the world back in those days wanted to be ballerinas, and the other half wanted to ride horses. I never wanted to ride horses. I thought they were sweating poop machines then, and I still think that’s what they are.

“I signed up for ballet lessons, which were held in the afternoons at the Catholic school. The Catholic school was scary enough, because everyone in New Orleans was either Catholic or Protestant, and depending on which flavor you were, you were always told the other group was on the fast track to hell. Just going to the Catholic school for my ballet classes was putting me squarely in the enemy camp.

“After I’d taken ballet classes for only a few weeks, the teacher was looking for a student to demonstrate a technique and called me up to the front of the class. She had me demonstrate the technique, but noooo …. that wasn’t enough.

“She then told the class … that I had a natural talent for ballet. She said I was so good at ballet that I could be a professional ballerina, if I kept at it. And then she administered the kiss of death. She added to the class, ‘It’s too bad she’s so ugly.'”

She was not ugly, of course, but the then-innocent Kathy did not know that.

“I left that class and never danced again — not ballet, not anything… Too bad I never told my mother about my experience with the teacher. She may have given me just the pep talk I needed. Mothers are like that. But they aren’t mind readers, and I didn’t say a word, so the pep talk I so desperately needed was never given. Pity.” (From Flat to Fluffy.)

The ballet teacher’s cruelty was the first of a long series of unwarranted slings and arrows cast at Kathy throughout her life — like one of her grandmothers who, at Kathy’s wedding, icily declared: “Here’s your gift. I’ve never liked you, and now I can finally write you off my list!”

In choosing a reaction, Kathy consistently refused to be a victim, meeting hurtful remarks with outward cheerfulness. And she adopted a code for public discourse which was: “If you can’t say anything nice — or at least constructive or helpful — keep your mouth shut even if you have to bite your tongue.”

As Kathy got older, moving from elementary school to high school, her life took a more positive turn. She involved herself in school activities, including clubs and councils for which she often served as President or some other leadership office.

When it was time for college, Kathy surprised her parents by telling them she wanted to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Kathy knew little about the school, except that smoking was not allowed on campus. Many of the colleges in Louisiana had ashtrays installed right in the desks, and she wanted to get away from the annoying smoke. To her surprise, her parents supported her decision.

Kathy was always a religious person, but described herself as a “generic Protestant.” Her mother was an Episcopalian, but they usually just visited whatever Protestant church that was close to their home.

Kathy’s mother warned her that people at BYU would make fun of her — not because she was not a Mormon, but because she was a Southerner. “Mother was right,” Kathy recalled. “When I got to BYU, there were people who ridiculed me for being a Southerner. There weren’t many, fortunately, although one history professor was merciless. It is easy to make fun of Southerners. We talk funny — or at least, I did at first. I got it beaten out of me pretty quickly.” (It’s UnAmerican to Say ‘American’.)

The occasional slurs against the South were more than offset by a religious doctrine that was so Christ-centered and true that Kathy found it compelling, especially when she enjoyed association with more luminous adherents of the faith at BYU. She soon desired to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The only problem was that they made her take the missionary discussions, and she found them to be rote and manipulative. After going through several sets of missionaries, either she or the missionaries finally gave in, and she was baptized.

One doctrine she found particularly alluring was the concept of Patriarchal Blessings, and she received hers within a week of being baptized. One of the things her blessing revealed was that God had given her “certain missions to perform here upon this earth which no one else was asked to do.” Given the unique course of her life, this seems to be one portion of the blessing that was certainly prophetic. Priesthood blessings were always important road maps for Kathy. She would record and transcribe them, and then have them laminated. She kept them all in a folder by her bed, would read them often and referred to them as “my personal scripture.”

Kathy was quite impoverished during college, and in the early years she had a food budget of $5 per week. She would often cook “chicken neck and garlic soup.” If she ran out of soup before the end of the week, she would eat the free blue cheese dressing that was offered in the cafeterias. When she lived off-campus, and a small monthly inheritance royalty check was above the usual $3, she would buy and fry a whole chicken and make a stupendous meal, which was eagerly consumed by friends far and near, including myself. In my memory, I can still taste those heavenly Southern-fried chickens.

Kathy had her own language in college. Boogle Doogle was her go-to phrase and it could mean anything. Something could be hotter than boogle doogle, or colder than boogle doogle. It was the ultimate superlative. Kathy frequently shortened it to BD, just as Valentine’s Day was always V.D. She called me and many others “sweetie” because she said it was easier than remembering individual names. When I objected, she countered with perverse pleasure by calling me “Sweaty” instead of “sweetie” for a time. I was but a brother she could tease, so I got “Sweaty” while the love of her life, Clark, got the friendly nickname “Fluffy,” a fond reference to his whimsical follicles.

Kathy chose to study journalism in college, and first became an editor for BYU’s Banyan yearbook, whose staff shared offices with the Daily Universe, the student newspaper where I then worked in the fall of 1971. It wasn’t long before I was irresistibly drawn into the gravitational pull of Planet Kathy. I believe the moment of no return came when we were idly recounting our most embarrassing moments at BYU, and she took the cake.

When she was living in the dorms a year or two before, some girls decided to play a prank on her by snatching her clothes and her towel while she was in the shower. It was more mischievous than malicious probably, since the dorm was not coed. However, when Kathy finally ventured into the hall with only the washcloth she had been using, a warning shout was given: “Men on the floor!” Her Ward Bishopric was coming down the hall from the far end, and she only had a moment to make a crucial decision. As she recounted, “With just the washcloth, and so many areas to be protected from public view, I covered my face. Perhaps they wouldn’t recognize me.”

Kathy could appreciate the practical joke because she herself was a prankster of the first order.

When Kathy became part of the Daily Universe student newspaper staff, she joined a few of us in attending Bio-Ag 105 together. Because it was a popular and easy science credit, the classroom was held in an amphitheater which accommodated more than 100 students. Kathy plotted in a series of hi jinks to crack up our good-humored professor.

She once had several pizzas delivered to “Dale Van Atta,” as the delivery boy announced at the door, while the class was in session.

As the savory aroma filled the room, a hundred hungry students, most of whom had not had breakfast, did not look upon me kindly — so I was grateful the teacher appropriated the pizzas, paid for them and disbursed them as he chose.

One of this professor’s favorite expressions when a student answered correctly was: “Give that young man (or girl) a Snickers bar!” Kathy bought dozens of Snickers candy bars so that when he uttered those words one particularly day, we were prepared to launch them in his direction — which we did.

But the piece de resistance came when our professor — after espousing a special affinity for the sheep he had once raised — announced that he was bound by the curriculum to lecture on the steps for butchering a lamb in the following week’s class. It was a hard lecture for him to give, he said. Before that lecture came around, Kathy found a half-dozen children’s toy boxes which, when turned upside down, produced the sound of a herd of lowing sheep.

Then came the wonderful day of that memorable class period. As the teacher began to describe with emotion the first stroke of the lamb’s slaughter, we turned our toy boxes over on cue and a chorus of plaintive, bleating lambs filled the room. He laughed so hard that he had to hold his sides for relief, then canceled the rest of the class and gave us a thumbs up on our way out. “Best one yet!”

Finally, there was the fishbowl fiasco. Kathy was living off-campus in a house where one roommate (Daryl Gibson) had a small fish in a little bowl in her bedroom. She had grown weary of the fish, and her roommates knew it. When it died, she was grateful. She was tired of cleaning the bowl. She dispatched the dead fish down the toilet, and ran off to class without emptying the bowl. When she returned, another fish was mysteriously swimming in the desktop bowl. When that one died, another magically reappeared.

Frustrated at this triple unwanted motherhood, she begged the unknown perpetrator to cease and desist. Of course, Kathy was the provocateur, and of course it was not over. When the third one died, Daryl came home from class to find a huge koi pond fish in the bowl — so big that it filled the bowl and couldn’t turn around. His big eyeball pressed against the side of the bowl, so they compassionately transferred it to a laundry bucket on the floor of their living room. They did not realize that koi can jump. The next morning, the young ladies awoke to find it lying on the carpet, deceased.

During Kathy’s college years, her mother died, which had an impact on her studies, as did several health issues which popped up during those years. In the main, however, the real cause for her lackluster GPA was that Kathy had embraced with convenient passion the admonishment from her journalism professors that job experience was more important than grades. She got lots of on-the-job experience, but generally didn’t study much. On the very day Kathy graduated from BYU in 1973, she also got a letter notifying her that she was being placed on academic probation.

Still, her professors were right about the experience, since immediately after graduation she was offered a position at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, where she had earlier served as a summer intern. Kathy loved the variety of being a reporter, and she served in many different roles, including being the first female assigned to the coveted federal government beat. At other times, she was also the zoo reporter, religion reporter, police reporter and obituary writer.

When I was hired a few months after Kathy by the Deseret News from a Rochester, New York, newspaper, I crossed the country in the wonderful Oldsmobile she had sold me as my first car, which she had named “Sally Forth.” With unfailing generosity, it was Kathy who located and arranged for me an apartment on First Avenue in advance of my arrival, which, by her positively fateful action, put me in a ward where I would discover and marry my wonderful wife.

Kathy was living in an apartment on “L” Street, and attended a ward for single members. One day a young man named Clark Kidd showed up as a new tenant. Kathy saw Clark a couple of times in church, but didn’t pay much attention to him. Their first interaction was when they came into the building at the same time and Clark held the security door open for Kathy. Instead of thanking him, she, adopting an expression that suggested she had just smelled a rotten egg, remarked: “Oh, you’re growing a mustache. I hate facial hair.” Just to prove that he was as stubborn as she was, Clark kept the mustache for another 30 years.

Kathy finally got interested in Clark, and hosted a Halloween party just to meet him. Two months later, she invited Clark to help her with a Sub-for-Santa project the Deseret News was doing. They spent a lot of time together buying, wrapping, and delivering gifts — an activity which made them realize they “kind of liked each other,” as Clark put it. Because of this, the Christmas season was always a particularly joyous one for Clark and Kathy.

In Clark, Kathy had found someone who could give as well as he got. Kathy once covered Clark’s front license plate with a large pair of pink panties, which adorned his car for almost a week before he noticed it. Clark took revenge by mailing them to Kathy’s sister just before Kathy was scheduled to visit her.

During their courting days, Clark and Kathy met Scott Card through a mutual friend (Kathy Jenkins). Scott was working as an editor for the Ensign magazine, and he would often drop by and play Scrabble, Acquire, or other board games. Those games have continued through the years. They have one score sheet that covers 15 years of games, as their friendship and association has continued over the years and miles.

After about a year of dating Kathy and Clark decided to get married. Then Clark got cold feet, and it took him another year to take the big step. They were finally married in the Salt Lake Temple on November 18, 1976, in a ceremony that included Scott, myself and my wife, and a few other family and friends. They moved into their first real home which Clark had purchased earlier on Princeton Avenue.

In about 1980, Clark and Kathy collaborated on their first project when they developed a board game called Free Agency. It was similar to the game of Life, but based around LDS concepts. They found an interested backer, and the game sold at Deseret Book for several years. A few years later, Scott was working for a computer book company, and encouraged Clark and Kathy to write some educational games for various brands of home computers. They wrote several books and they sold pretty well, Clark recounts.

In 1987, Clark received a job offer in Virginia. Ironically, they had visited northern Virginia for the first time about a year before, and decided it was one place they would never want to live. But the feeling to move was strong, so the Kidds made the big move into my ward. I had come to Washington D.C. to work as an investigative reporter and co-columnist with Jack Anderson. Among my sweetest memories are the many Christmas afternoon and Easter dinners our families shared.

Here in Virginia, Kathy met up again with another old college friend, Charles Carriker, and went to work for his company, writing fund-raising letters for conservative groups in the U.S., Australia, and England. With her irrepressible smile, Kathy said with pride: “I have the distinction of having my junk mail thrown in the trash on three continents.” (Never mind that England was not a continent — her claim remained the same. Kathy’s Planet was however she chose to describe it.)

By 1989, the Kidds’ friend Scott Card left the corporate world and moved to North Carolina to devote full-time to an impressive freelance career which included the best-selling Ender’s Game series. Now in the East with the Kidds, Scott persuaded Kathy to write several books for his new LDS publishing company. Her first book was a humorous LDS fiction novel called Paradise Vue, and was well received. It was about the quirky members of a ward whose west-facing chapel on Salt Lake City’s east bench had been designed with a large stained-glass and clear-glass window, which meant the congregants had to wear sunglasses to see the sun-drenched, haloed speakers during afternoon meetings.

Besides Paradise Vue and other books, Kathy and Scott notably co-wrote a science fiction novel called Lovelock.

Throughout her LDS life, Kathy had a series of ward callings in the Relief Society and Young Women organizations. She also devoted herself to helping Clark fill his callings as well, and they had lots of fun doing events together such as the annual bishops’ training meeting sponsored by the stake.

Since her baptism in 1971, Kathy has been unwavering in her support of the Church and the gospel. She went the extra mile in filling her callings, and did many good things of her own initiative. When an excommunicated ward member tried to embarrass the Church with negative articles and letters, Kathy wrote her own letters and articles in response. Shortly after that, Elder Neal A. Maxwell attended our stake conference, and made a special effort to meet Kathy and thank her for her efforts.

In 1995, the Kidds were called to serve as ordinance workers in the Washington D.C. temple. They were still serving at the time of Kathy’s death. Even after her health declined, Kathy would serve in the office answering phones, greeting patrons and giving out candy. In that calling and others, she was determined to be the kind of woman, she said, who, when her feet hit the floor each morning, caused the Devil to say with alarm, “Oh no, she‘s up!”

Beginning in 1997, Kathy and Clark published several non-fiction LDS books through Bookcraft and later Deseret Book. They are most proud of their first book, A Convert’s Guide to Mormon Life, which was written in response to President Hinckley’s admonition to better support new converts. The book won a 1998 AML Award for Devotional Literature, and is still in print.

Also, from the earliest days of home computers, Kathy was enthusiastically involved with the online LDS world. For several years, she was the moderator of the Mormon area on AOL, which eventually transitioned to a similar web site called She was affiliated with Meridian Magazine from 2004-2013, writing columns, acting as managing editor for a time, and running their popular “Circle of Sisters” forum. From 2012 to the present, she has performed similar functions for Scott’s Nauvoo Times web site. Four years ago, Kathy also established her own blog and web site, appropriately named Planet Kathy.

Finally, I would like to address for a moment just how great was Kathy’s endurance to the end with full faith in God and a testimony of redeeming power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

More than a decade ago, although she ate no more or differently than many of us, Kathy began to gain weight unexpectedly. It was inexplicable. Doctors at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere were never able to diagnose what it was that caused this swift-growing gain, but concluded that it could not be explained by her diet, nor be significantly decelerated by a change in that diet.

I can report that during one priesthood blessing several years ago, the Lord verified that this unwanted enlargement had not occurred of her own volition. Much like Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” it was a spirit-building trial she was given in latter days to help prepare her to meet God and his Beloved Son. The voice for that blessing was given a glimpse of her true spirit and body, and was stunned by how startlingly beautiful she truly was — and is, now, freed from her latter-day corporal imprisonment.

But while she endured this, this large frame for her spirit seemed to give license to some doctors, nurses, paramedics and other strangers to adopt a rudeness that was often cruel and entirely unwarranted. She parried with humor, often self-deprecating, and took blows with a cheerful countenance. This was not an easy or a natural thing for her to do. It took work and heart. She reckoned she could endure it because she had the unflinching support of Heavenly Father and her husband. God had given her this un-diagnosed condition, and she knew He loved her. And Clark? He was the gallant knight to his beloved damsel in distress. He was always, always, always, by her side. “They were jerks, complete idiots,” he would soothe in private moments, with a kiss or a headrub. They could not see what he saw.

But it still hurt, and she evolved into a true example of courage and faith as she bore it with equanimity and resolve. After one particularly rude round of hospital attendance, she wrote: “It is only God who sees us completely. It is only God who knows us from the inside out. The next time I am tempted to nod my head sagely and think I know what is going on the mind or the heart of another, I hope I remember the doctors in the hospital — each of whom looked at a small piece of me and thought he knew the whole.” (The Elephant and the Hospital.)

From the depths of her own soul and injury, she affirmed the divinity of the Savior’s words, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

In December of 2012, Kathy was rushed to the hospital with a case of sepsis. She was put into a medically-induced coma to allow her body to heal. After a three-month stay in three different hospitals, she defied the doctors’ predictions and came home.   The remaining years of her life were a series of challenges as she struggled mightily to regain her health. She made some great progress, but never fully recovered. She never let her problems define her, or stop her from being a cheerleader for others. Despite the challenges of the last three years, Clark and Kathy enjoyed this last little season as a time of increased affection and appreciation for each other.

On December 14th, at the end of viewing one of their guilty pleasures on TV, “Forensic Files,” Kathy told Clark that she loved him, and made her way upstairs to bed. By her request, Clark was not allowed to watch her slow progress up the 15 steps. Once he could hear her upstairs, the practice was to call up and whistle, listening for Kathy’s wolf whistle in return to confirm she was settled. That night when he whistled, it went unanswered. He hurried upstairs to find her beside the bed, having slipped away quietly and in relative peace. She was unresponsive to his ministrations. Paramedics arrived. She was given CPR and taken to the hospital, but all attempts to revive her failed, and she passed away just before midnight, leaving ahead of us to that place from whose bourn no traveler returns. And how wonderful must be her Paradise View now!

Kathy found her own path in life, but was always a devoted daughter of God. She could be sassy, blunt, and irreverent, but her love for Christ and for others always showed through. Despite a lifetime of challenges, she rarely complained, and always tried to lift and encourage others.

Speaking about the Biblically-prophesied “marriage supper” of the Savior in the world beyond this one, she wrote: “I don’t know about you, but the Savior’s banquet is one that I do not want to miss. I want to be at the table, with my napkin on my lap, and I want my loved ones to be there with me. If there is an oil lamp that is required of us, I want mine to be filled, with its wick trimmed and ready to go. I want your oil lamps to be filled, too, because I care about you.” (Party of Two.)

She was a grand and good lady who made the world better when she was in it. She will be monumentally missed by many of us. Farewell Kathy. God be with you till we meet again. “Keep love’s banner floating o’er you; smite death’s threatening wave before you.” God be with you — and us all — until we meet at Jesus’ feet. This is my hope and prayer, in the Savior’s holy name, Amen.

Remarks by Clark L. Kidd

(I had planned to write these remarks and have my good friend [and Home Teacher] Mike Egerer read them, fearing that my emotions would not be up to the task.  After reading them, Mike suggested it would be more appropriate for me to express them.  He was correct, and it was only proper for me to pay tribute to my sweet Kathy.)  

I have always believed that the dearly-departed are allowed to tarry for their own funerals, and that Kathy is here today, at least in spirit. If that is the case, I’m sure I’m in deep trouble. “Fluffy,” I can almost hear her say, “Why did you use that horrible picture of me on the front cover?” “It looks like my hair has never made the acquaintance of a hair brush!”

Kathy, please accept my apology. But I think that picture reflects the Kathy that many of us loved. Perhaps not always perfectly quaffed, but bubbly, witty, outspoken, sassy, and with a great appreciation for life, for God and for all that He has created.

I would like to express appreciation today for four things.

First, I am so grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from all of you. On the night that Kathy died, I was in the deepest pit imaginable, and doubted that I would ever be able to climb out. But then word started to spread, and people mentioned that they were praying for Kathy’s family. Not just the people here, but people all over the world who were posting condolences online. I also received a wonderful blessing of comfort, and many visits, cards, emails, meals, and invitations to holiday events. Perhaps I should not have been out socializing at such a time, but being around others who loved us was a great balm to my soul. Thank you for the many hours of service that have been given, and the plans that have been changed to serve our family at this busy time of year. I’m not out of that pit yet, but I’m climbing.

Because Kathy was so involved in the online community, word of her passing spread quickly. I started to save all of the comments that were posted, but soon gave up. In addition to comments on my own Facebook account, there were many other tributes, including three from organizations with which she was affiliated. The comments were touching, and made me realize how many lives she had touched, and how deeply some of those lives had been touched. Many found hope from her books when they were discouraged or having their faith challenged. Many had been encouraged by her when they were struggling with problems. Many writers stated that Kathy had encouraged and counseled them when they were just starting and doubted their abilities. Most said they were just going to miss the happy musings from her weekly blog posts and other writings.

Second, I am grateful for the last wonderful three years that Kathy and I shared. When she was in her coma in 2012, doctors were skeptical she would survive. I spent many hours on my knees pleading with the Lord that she would not be taken from me. Though it was a long and slow process, she did survive and we grew even closer together. In her own words, the three months that she spent in the hospital were a “deeply sacred time for me.”   She never shared all the details, only to say that she and her Father in Heaven had become even closer. She was told that God needed her to be “the happiest person on the planet,” and she tried to reflect that. Those in the hospital were always drawn to her, often asking to be assigned to her, or even coming in on their off-hours just to visit her. One physical therapist said “If we could capture and bottle your wife’s enthusiasm, we could make a fortune.”

Her recovery over the last three years has been slow and sometimes painful. But she endured it well, and rarely complained. In addition to doing most of the domestic chores around the house, I have needed to help her with basic chores such as putting on her shoes. Some have said I was a saint to have done this, but I was the one who was blessed. These simple acts of service brought us closer together, and helped us love and appreciate each other even more. We still looked forward to the big events, such as vacations and cruises, but we also enjoyed just having a quiet day at home together. Just sitting together on the love seat, watching Jeopardy, and holding hands was a real treat.  As Kathy was fond of saying, “It’s just you, me, and Alex Trebek.”

Since that first hospitalization, my prayers have always included gratitude for her life, a plea for her continued recovery, and a request that we might have many more years together. Despite my pleadings, I always wondered if her return to me might be for just a short season, and I suppose that it was. But I am so grateful to have had those extra three years, and cherished each and every day.

Third, I am so grateful that Kathy has been freed from the pains and physical ailments that afflicted her for most of her life. She was always self-conscious about her looks and her weight, and this was not helped by the occasional moron who would say extremely rude things to her. While at BYU, two different guys told her on the same week that she was so smart and witty that they would propose immediately if she were just a little thinner and a little prettier. (This type of attitude is one of the reasons I had no desire to attend BYU.)  Having seen pictures of her during those days, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone could say such things about such a gorgeous woman. But I count this as a blessing, because otherwise she probably would have been married long before I met her.

A friend who visited recently shared details about a dream she had twice over the past month. In this dream she saw Kathy in her heavenly form, and was astounded by her beauty. Kathy was singing and dancing around, and having a wonderful time. Kathy was never afraid of death, and looked forward to it as her next great adventure. I hope that it has met or exceeded her expectations, and that she is excited about her new assignments.  I’m anxiously awaiting a postcard from her, but have not seen one yet.

Another former ward member shared the following in an email:

On Tuesday morning, I was riding my motorcycle to work. It was cool, but the sun was shining on a calm ocean and the waves were stunningly beautiful.  I had just found out about Kathy’s passing 15 minutes earlier from a text message.

I was lost in my thoughts, concerned about you, since you and Kathy did everything together.  As I was going past Sunset Beach, Kathy started talking to me.  She said, “Jeff don’t be sad for me, I am free!”   At that moment, I knew she was happy! So, again she was teaching me.

I began to start thinking about how much faster Kathy will be able to get around and continue to serve others in her unique and effective ways.

Okay, was Kathy actually riding on the back of my motorcycle?  I like to think she was.

During this season, we celebrate the birth, life, and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ. This is the final and most important thing for which I am grateful this day. As we sang earlier today:

He lives, my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.

If we build and exercise faith in Christ, He will become our beacon to a better way. His marvelous atonement is our bright hope in a dark world, and assures us that we will find light and love beyond the veil of death. If it were not for this wonderful gift, our entire existence would be meaningless.

Let me close by sharing just one more story about our sweet Kathy. If you looked on the memory table outside, you might have seen one of her journals. Back in May of last year, she decided that she would gain more from her daily scripture study if she wrote the scriptures out by hand. So she bought several journals, and would read and transcribe one chapter of the Book of Mormon each day. So when she was finished, she would have a complete copy of the book written in her hand. She filled several journals, went through several pens, and finally made it to 3rd Nephi, Chapter 19.  (That’s about 84% through the book.)

When she started doing this, I would occasionally hear her shout “Bingo!” When I asked why, she said it was because she had found a chapter that contained all the letters “X,” “Q,” “J,” and “Z,” and she would note that with an asterisk next to the chapter number in her journal.

Why was this significant? Kathy loved words, and she loved playing Scrabble, and those four letters are the highest scoring letters in Scrabble. Finding one chapter that contained all of them was a great event. This is just one of many quirky stories that made every day an adventure with Kathy.

Also, please take time to read the little story that is on the inside cover of your program. This is the last portion of the last blog that Kathy ever wrote. She lived her life around the written word, but I suspect she did not know when writing this that it would be her final written testimony in this life. Yet she seems to have come up with the perfect ending to a blog well written and to a life well lived.

Until we meet again, my sweet princess, the love of my life, the Queen of my Universe. You will continue to inspire me each day to be the best that I can be, so we may resume our glorious journey together after a brief separation.

In the name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Memories of Kathy


This “Memory Table” at the funeral contained things that Kathy loved, and also the books and other things she created.


As noted by the sign at the back of the table, Kathy was indeed the Queen of the Universe.


The statue of Santa holding the baby Jesus was a recent acquisition. Kathy liked it because it combined both the sacred and secular nature of the holiday.


Kathy was proud of this sign that resided in her office, and made several people promise that it would be displayed at her funeral “when she croaked.”


A picture of Kathy taken in Key West, Florida.


A picture taken at a secret shopping assignment, a frequent adventure for Kathy and Fluffy.


Another collection of photos from the memorable life of Kathryn H. Kidd.

Thanks for reading through this and being part of Planet Kathy.


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Dec 17 2015

Have I Told You Today That I Love You?

Published by under General

[Sadly, this entry is not written by Kathy, but by her husband and partner-in-crime Clark (also known by his super-secret alias of Fluffy).]

As most of you know, our universe lost one of its brightest queens when sweet Kathy Kidd died last Monday.  Many of you have asked for a copy of the Obituary, and it is included below.

But first, please indulge me in a couple of thoughts.

A number of wonderful online comments and memorials have appeared in the last couple of days.  You may want to check them out before they go away:

One of the positive things we learned from Kathy’s three-month hospital adventure in 2012 was that we needed to use the “L word” more often.  I made some improvements in this area, but Kathy (as usual) was the super star.

At least 5+ times on any given day, she would say “Fluffy, have I told you today how much I love you?”  I would reciprocate verbally, or with some act of physical affection (like kissing her cheek or forehead).

Sadly, these were about the last words she said to me before leaving this mortal sphere.  Less than 10 minutes later, I found her on the floor in a lifeless heap.

When someone close passes, one of the games you play is the “If only…” game.  And number one on my list was “If only I had reciprocated in a more appropriate manner to her last words.”

So to my dear wife, my Madame Kathy, my Sweet Angel, my Angel Bunny, The Queen of my Universe…..If they have internet access where you are, please know that I LOVE YOU.  I love you today, I love you tomorrow, and I will love you for as long as love and matter exist.  That love and those memories are the only things that have kept me going this week.  I know you are in a better place that has freed you from your physical limitations.  But I miss you so, as do many of your loyal friends.

Please take every opportunity to express love to those around you as often as possible.  You never know when you will have your last chance to say those magic words.


Patricia Kathryn Helms Kidd


Kathy Kidd died suddenly on December 14, 2015, in Potomac Falls, Virginia. Although she struggled with health problems for most of her life, that did not stop her humor, enthusiasm, and quest for knowledge. She will be missed by her family and all those whose lives she touched.

Kathy was born April 3, 1950, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first child of Ellis Franklin Helms Junior and Patricia Seale. She grew up in New Orleans and nearby Mandeville. She graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a degree in Journalism, and then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to work for the Deseret News. While living there, she met and married Clark Lloyd Kidd on November 18, 1976. They lived in Utah until 1987 when they moved to their current home in Virginia.

A prolific writer, Kathy authored or co-authored many books on topics as diverse as cooking, computer games, self-help, fiction and science fiction. She has served as the editor and contributing columnist for two different web sites, as well as the moderator for several online forums. She always supported and encouraged others with a gentle hand. Her weekly blogs have inspired and entertained many readers.

Since joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) while attending BYU, she has been strong in her beliefs and has never wavered in her support of the Church and other institutions that promote good will. She has served those around her through formal assignments (callings) or just when she found someone in need. Most of her Church callings involved her considerable writing skills, but she also loved teaching the young women and mentoring them. She and Clark have also enjoyed working in the Washington D.C. LDS Temple for the past 20 years.

Kathy is survived by her husband and two sisters, Sandra Dee Helms and Susan Elizabeth (Edward) Wiedeman.

Viewings will be held on Monday, December 28th from 6-8 PM, and Tuesday, December 29th from 10:30-11:30 AM. The funeral service will follow the second viewing. All events will take place at the LDS Church building at 22066 Circle Drive in Sterling, Virginia, 20164.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of LDS Philanthropies. Although this is administered by the LDS Church, 100% of the funds donated go to those in need in all parts of the world. You can donate online by visiting, and scrolling down to the “Donate Online” button.


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Dec 14 2015

In Praise of Tortoises Everywhere

Published by under General

It’s that happy time of year when most of us are thinking about Christmas. I’m doing that quite often too, but as we enter December, I also realize that three years ago I was sleeping like the dead, and indeed the doctors and Fluffy had no idea whether I was ever going to re-enter the land of the living.

That was not a particularly enjoyable Christmas for the Kidd family. It was memorable, but not exactly a funfest.

When I finally did awaken, the doctor told Fluffy I would be in the ICU for a couple of days, and then in therapy for a couple of weeks. Then Fluffy could take me home and I would be good as new. Ha! Fluffy laughs and laughs about that, but the laugh is just a little bit bitter. Because here I am three years later, and there’s no “good as new” about it.

The person Fluffy brought home from the hospital was a different Kathy from the one who was taken to the hospital in the meat wagon. In some ways, I’m actually better. For one thing, I dropped about 100 pounds that I was happy to see go. I’m still not a lightweight by any means, mind you. But losing that hundred pounds was a red-letter event for me.

When I went into the coma, I had congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. Both of those are fatal diseases, and I had already lived longer with them than most people do.

I spent years sucking oxygen out of a tube at home, and I only stopped doing it because I was afraid I was going to get caught in the tubing and fall down the stairs. I’m clumsy that way. My heart and my lungs were bad, and they were only going to get worse. But both diseases disappeared when I was in that coma. I came out of the hospital with a healthy heart and lungs.

My lungs are so good these days that when I was in the doctor’s office for a checkup last week, I noticed they were conducting a study that paid people $50 for a vial of their blood if they had any number of weird diseases. One of the diseases was COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a disease I was first diagnosed with back in 1985. I’ve had that disease for two decades.

There’s an easy way to make fifty bucks for Christmas,” I said.

My doctor listened to my chest. “Nope,” he said, in his flat Wisconsin Cheesehead accent. “You’ll have to find a different disease. “Your heart and your lungs are fine.”

So much for that extra cash for the Christmas season.

I came out of the hospital with that new set of lungs and that new, stronger heart. The trade-off for that is that I lost the ability to walk — at least temporarily. But “temporarily” has taken a long, long time.

I never talked to the doctor who said I’d be good to go in two weeks. I was out like a candle when he said it. But I did hear the doctors who said I’d be walking in six months to a year and a half. At the time, I thought a year and a half was going to be a long, long time. Little did I know that the doctors were sugar-coating even that.

In the past whole year, the only progress I have made is that I now do most of my getting around in church with Fluffy on one arm and a cane on the other. I say “most” because I can’t get through the outside double door that way, so Fluffy gets me through the outside doors in my wheelchair and then I start walking. But it is an improvement over the walker, which was what I was using last year at this time.

And the walker was a great improvement over the wheelchair that I used the year before that.

Frankly, I expected to make a whole lot more improvement than just graduating from a walker to a cane over the course of a whole year. But then, I was expecting my nerves were going to grow back a whole lot more than they have during a whole year’s period. They haven’t.

One doctor told me that nerves grow back at the rate of one-half inch to one inch per month. Okay, I figured, to get from my knees down to the bottoms of my feet would be up to 36 months, even if my nerves were in the slow-learner class. But I have learned that nerves follow their own calendar, and different sensations come back at different speeds.

There have been some new sensations (getting more unpleasant as we approach winter), which are that my feet always feel as though they are being assaulted by an Arctic wind. This is not something that makes me happy. I liked it lots better when they felt as though they were on fire, although that was an unpleasant sensation too.

I am sure my neurologist would call this progress. In fact, he says my recovery is right on track, so I know things are going well. But I am an impatient soul, and to be honest, Fluffy is considerably less patient than I am. It grates on both of us to see my recovery progressing at glacial speed.

Of course, both of us realize that the time may come when recovery may stop altogether. I have read several books about people who have been in comas, and sometimes their feet come back, and other times their feet do not. It all depends on what their feet want to do.

What I’ve read in the books is that people just find ways to work around their feet. Fluffy has hoped I would be climbing mountains by now. Frankly, I’ve had the same hopes. Both of us have been just a tad disappointed.

We hoped the day would never come when I would have to just give up and have to learn to walk on what feel like painful, icy stumps. But that day may come, and if it does, I’ll just have to smile and do it. Lots of people have worse challenges to overcome than that.

Matthew 5:48 gives us what seems like a daunting command, when Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But even as we worry over the prospect of being perfect, we need to realize that there is no place in that scripture where Jesus tells us we have to be perfect now, or even this year, or even in this decade.

In fact, we can be as slow as turtles as long as we are going in the right direction. And I am moving in the right direction, even if it’s even less than that promised half inch per month.

When Aesop wrote about the Tortoise and the Hare, the rabbit was not the hero of the tale. The rabbit was a lazy beast, who was so certain that he was going to win that he plopped down for a nap in the middle of the race. It was the pathetic, plodding tortoise who eventually won, solely because he was too stupid to know he had been beaten.

I want to be a tortoise — too dumb to know I should just pull my arms and my legs into my shell and give up. I have a lifetime (and the lifetime beyond this one) to persevere. If I just make one milestone next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, I may yet beat the rabbit and win the race.

I may yet reach perfection, as may we all. After all, as long as we are going in the right direction, we have eternity to get there.


This article originally appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Dec 07 2015

From Flat to Fluffy

Published by under General

After my last date with the Fire and Rescue people on step #13 of the fifteen stairs in our home, it became apparent to me that I was not going to be able to make it upstairs every night to go to sleep. This was a big problem for me because we do not have any bedrooms on the main floor of our house, and I cannot sleep sitting up or reclining on any of our sofas.

We survived a couple of nights with my sleeping in a recliner chair, but that was just a temporary solution.

After some anguish on my part, Fluffy and I ordered a daybed from Amazon — something that will masquerade as a sofa by day but that can be turned into a twin bed by night. Actually, it can be used as a king bed because there is a trundle bed underneath it that pulls out and holds a second twin mattress.

Ordering the daybed was one thing. Purchasing two mattresses was quite another. Fluffy and I were not excited about buying two mattresses and strapping them to the roof of our car and then driving them home precariously, hoping they would not slide off the back or (horrors!) the front of our car while we were driving down the road.

After some consternation, I decided to see about buying the mattresses off Amazon too. Why not? I already buy my books and my vitamins and my potato chips from Amazon. Why not a mattress for a bed?

So I checked, and sure enough — there were mattresses for 79 bucks and mattresses people actually liked for $152, with free two-day shipping. That sure beat going to the mattress store and strapping the things to the top of our Buick with bungee cords, so I placed the order.

Two days later, two mattresses arrived on the doorstep. At least, the boxes said they were mattresses. They were not in mattress-shaped boxes. They were in square boxes that were about a foot on each side, and the height of a twin mattress sitting on its side. It was weird.

Keep in mind these were not foam mattresses or air mattresses.
These were actual mattresses with coils and springs.


With great difficulty, Fluffy cut the cardboard end off of a box. The people who put the boxes together knew those boxes needed to stay together. Bad things would happen if those boxes ever came apart during shipping. Each end was reinforced by about three layers of thick cardboard and some heavy-duty glue.

Carefully, carefully, he slid the mattress out of the box. It was tightly wrapped with two layers of heavy-duty plastic, designed to keep the air out. We imagined there was a purpose in keeping the air out of the mattress.

The plastic around the mattress was heavy-duty, to keep out the air.
You can see how thin that sliver of mattress is, where the red label is on the end. A later picture shows that label as being eight inches tall.


He put the mattress on the spring of the daybed. He took out a knife. He punctured the plastic, and stepped back to pull the plastic off the mattress. It was a good thing he stepped back, because as soon as that mattress got a little bit of air in it, it inflated like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.

What I want to know is this: Where were the coils? Where were the springs? That mattress may not have been as flat as a pancake, but it was certainly as flat as a good-sized Belgian waffle. How did those springs get so flat?


When that mattress was as flat as a Belgian waffle, where were the coils and the springs?

All this inflating was done without any lung power on Fluffy’s part.
He just had to let the air in and stand back.

Within two minutes, the mattress was four inches thick.

Within three minutes, the mattress was six inches thick.

Within about four minutes, the mattress
had reached almost its full eight-inch thickness.

Voila! The mattress inflated itself,
with the coils and springs falling magically into place.  Notice
the label is close to its eight-inch height.

We test drove the mattresses that night and can attest
that the mattresses felt just like real mattresses.
We never would have guessed they started their lives in a tiny box.


Fluffy and I spent the night in our new bed that night and had a delightful night’s sleep. Who would have guessed that something so comfortable could have come in a little square box? But as Fluffy pointed out, good things often come in small packages.

The walnuts that litter our sidewalk might have grown into mighty trees if they had landed in fertile ground rather than on a barren sidewalk. Seeds start small, but they are full of great potential.

Babies are the same. Having never been a mother, I can’t see the difference in them when they are small. They all look like Winston Churchill to me. But when they get older, they start to blossom. Every one of them is different. They all have different talents, different gifts, and different destinies. They are as distinct as fingerprints.

Each one of them is a human seedling, which only needs nurturing to blossom to its full potential.

Books, too, can be great treasures. Not all of them are gems, but I’ve learned that like people you can learn something from most of them — even if the thing you learn is that they are best avoided.

Children look at this world with awe and amazement. They sit down at the edge of the sidewalk and peer into the grass and the dirt, looking down at the wonders below. I think children have the right idea.

Sometimes we get lost in the big picture. We get caught up in paying the bills or doing our jobs or worrying about the important things. But if we step back we can remember the little things that used to bring us so much joy, it gives us more of an appreciation for life.

Parents often bemoan the fact that they spend so much on Christmas gifts, but their children are more excited about the cardboard boxes the Christmas gifts came in. Last week, Fluffy and I celebrated the cardboard box. We celebrated the flat mattress that inflated all by itself. We celebrated the ingenuity that allows a full-sized mattress to be compressed into a tiny box.

Especially during this joyous time of the year, we need to observe and appreciate all the miracles in our lives, whether they are brought about by the ingenuity of man or the glorious hand of God.


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Nov 30 2015

Our Impressionable Minds

Published by under General

As Fluffy and I were driving through Baltimore recently, we passed a billboard that made a big impression on me. It was a picture of Albert Einstein that I had never seen before, but it was not his hair or expression that made the impression. It was the caption next to the picture. Here is the billboard:

Einstein could afford to stick out his tongue at the world.
He was Albert Einstein!


I had just assumed Einstein was always Einstein. Who knew he was a work in progress?

The billboard reminded me of a story I had just recently read, concerning another young student. The story went like this:

One day Thomas came home and gave a paper to his mother. He told her, “My teacher gave this paper to me and told me to only give it to my mother.”

His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.”

Many years later, Thomas’s mother had died and he had become one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day he was looking through old family things that had belonged to his mother.

Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written: “Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.” (

Although the research I have done this week has told me the story is more legend than fact, the story wasn’t entirely false. Thomas Edison was dyslexic, as I was, and teachers back in those days did not know how to deal with dyslexic students. He only lasted a few weeks in public school before his mother, Nancy, pulled him out of school to teach him at home.

One on occasion Edison said the following about his mother:

She “was the making of me…  [because] she was always so true and so sure of me…  And always made me feel I had someone to live for and must not disappoint.” (

Of course, people learn the lessons they are going to learn in life. I remember when I was in probably in about second or third grade, I desperately wanted to take ballet lessons. Half the little girls in the world back in those days wanted to be ballerinas, and the other half wanted to ride horses. I never wanted to ride horses. I thought they were sweating poop machines then, and I still think that’s what they are.

Anyway, I signed up for ballet lessons, which were held in the afternoons at the Catholic school. The Catholic school was scary enough, because everyone in New Orleans was either Catholic or Protestant, and depending on which flavor you were, you were always told the other group was on the fast track to hell. Just going to the Catholic school for my ballet classes was putting me squarely in the enemy camp.

After I’d taken ballet classes for only a few weeks, the teacher was looking for a student to demonstrate a technique in one of the classes and she called me up to the front of the class. She had me demonstrate the technique, but no — that wasn’t enough.

She then told the class, most of whom were older than I was (which meant that I had a healthy fear of them anyway), that I had a natural talent for the ballet. She said I was so good at ballet that I could be a professional ballerina, if I kept at it. And then she administered the kiss of death. She said to the class, “It’s too bad she’s so ugly.”

I later saw a picture of myself at that age, and I wasn’t ugly at all. I later became ugly. The teacher’s words became a self-fulfilling prophecy. But at the time I was just a regular kid. I could have gone either way.

I left that class and never danced again — not ballet, not anything. I became an ugly non-dancer. Too bad I didn’t have Einstein’s natural self-confidence. Instead of sticking my tongue at the world, I shut myself up in my shell like a hermit crab.

It was only decades later that I realized it wasn’t entirely the teacher’s fault. I chose which words to believe. I could have chosen to believe I had a natural talent for the ballet. Instead I chose to believe I was ugly and useless — a blight on the world.  To a degree, there’s a little voice in my head that will whisper those words in my ear until the day I die.

Too bad I never told my mother about my experience with the teacher. She may have given me just the pep talk I needed. Mothers are like that. But they aren’t mind readers, and I didn’t say a word, so the pep talk I so desperately needed was never given. Pity.

A word of caution to all you people out there who deal with children. You are opening doors to magical realms for the children whose lives you touch, or you are slamming those doors shut forever. Every casual word can inspire or place a mine in a minefield. You never know when you bury those mines when they’ll go off, or whose lives will be scarred forever in the process.

As the saying goes, “If you can’t say anything nice (or at least constructive or helpful), keep your mouth shut even if you have to bite your tongue.”


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Nov 23 2015

The Miserable 17%

Published by under General

I had an Uncle Herbie who really did a great job of being retired.  He used to work a lot with numbers, so he was the kind of detail-oriented guy who could make an exact science out of mowing the lawn. But he was also a dreamer whose passion was writing stories, so you could say he was a well-rounded man.

When Uncle Herbie was approaching retirement, he did a lot of research about how to retire well.  He read books and articles and attended seminars.  He did a lot of planning about all aspects of retirement, so that he and my Aunt Em could really enjoy the experience.  The only thing he could have done better was to have lived a few more years, but I guess that was one variable he could not control.

My husband Fluffy really liked this idea of making retirement a project, and planned to do the same when he finally took that step.  Unfortunately, life had other ideas.  His company cut a bunch of jobs (including his) exactly two months into my three-month hospital tour in 2013, when Fluffy’s retirement was still way off on the horizon.

Fluffy was too busy with my health issues to look for another job, so he put that on the back burner until he had fewer pressing issues.  Then it got pushed further and further towards the back of the stove, until it finally fell off and went splat on the floor.

He updated his resume and made a feeble attempt at job searching, but his heart just wasn’t in it.  He had worked pretty much non-stop for 40+ years, and he was really enjoying his sabbatical.  Retirement was a lot easier than he had envisioned, not only financially, but in other ways.  So last year he finally decided to upgrade his status from “unemployed and kind of looking” to “happily retired.”

That means that Fluffy now spends a lot of time doing the research that he planned to do before retirement.  He reads a lot of articles about retirement and attends meetings (both online and with real people).  But most of his research is done by practicing being retired, which means puttering around the house and looking for vacations and doing other retirement-type things.

Last week he shared with me a statistic he had read in one of the articles he read.  It said that 60% of working men were looking forward to spending more time with their wives when they retire.  On the flip side of that, it said that only 43% of women were looking forward to spending more time with their husbands in retirement.

(The non-PC person who wrote the article actually used words like men, women, husbands and wives.  Personally, it was a breath of fresh air, considering all the times lately I’ve been reading about idiots who want to replace “he” and “she” with the gender-neutral “ze.” Oh, please. Spare me from the politically correct dweebs of the universe. Get them out of my life and off of my planet forever.)

Now I was not a math major, but there was one interesting statistic here that really jumped out.  If you take the difference between 60 and 43, that means that 17% of the ladies with soon-to-be-retired husbands do not share the same anticipation for having hubby at home 24/7.

Oh, I could relate to this.  Even though we get along well now that we are old, I entertained similar thoughts when Fluffy was working in an office and would start to talk about retirement.  Just as a working person gets into his own routines at work, a stay-at-home spouse adopts similar patterns and rhythms at home.  The idea of disrupting these patterns and having a 24-hour roommate can be a little jarring.

I guess it’s a bit like our young Mormon missionaries, who suddenly inherit a companion that they must treat like a Siamese twin.  As an introvert, I think the idea of having a stranger joined at the hip with me for every waking moment of my life just might be a fate worse than death.

So when Fluffy rhapsodized about retirement, he often asked me why I had a deer-in-the-headlights look. And even though I pretended I just had a piece of lint in my eye, I did indeed have a deer-in-the-headlights look. As much as I liked the little fellow, it scared the socks off me to think of him in my domain every moment of my waking life. Where would my private time go?

My answer to this, now that Fluffy is happily retired is, “What private time?” For, you see, my 38-year-old self was absolutely right. “Yours” and “mine” has become “ours” — at least it has in our marriage, where Fluffy is also my caretaker, cook, chauffeur, and bottle-washer.

Even when I am happily sitting in my office, thinking my time is my own, a little blond head is likely to pop in, saying, “What were you laughing about?” Or when someone has called me on the phone, I often hear a third party breathing on the line and say, “Fluffy, is that you?” He is more than happy to enter the conversation.

But the secondary answer to my question is, “Who needs private time?” Because the thing I did not realize, back in the days when Fluffy and I walked on eggshells around each other, was that there would come a day when my happiest moments would be spent in his company, and that he would be my companion of choice whenever I decided I wanted to raise my heels and get in some sort of mischief or other.

It really doesn’t bother me to have Fluffy as my party line on the telephone, as long as he makes his presence known. Watching television is more fun (and a lot warmer) as long as he is sitting next to me on the love seat. We may not eat the same things for lunch, but it is more companionable when we eat lunch together than it used to be when I dined alone.

Who knew?

Even in retirement, we don’t spend every second of every day together. For one thing, we have separate offices on different floors. Fluffy has suggested that we have our computers in the same room, but one has to draw the line somewhere. For one thing, I mumble to myself, and I must admit I enjoy my own conversations. For another, he listens to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I would not deny him that joy but I am definitely not a fan.

One must draw the line somewhere.

We have gotten into the groove of retirement. We eat lunches out rather than going to dinner. We look for coupons to make those lunches cheaper. We go grocery shopping together.

Last week was our 39th wedding anniversary. On our way to our anniversary lunch, Fluffy drove me to Walgreens so I could buy an anniversary card for him. He went into the store with me and went shopping while I made my choice, and he pulled out my charge card and paid for my purchase because I do not carry a purse or a charge card with me. Now that’s togetherness.

Spending time together should be a joy, not a curse.


If you’re a husband or a wife who is not completely crazy about your spouse, start working now to make it a better relationship. By the time you’re old, your husband or wife is going to be your closest companion just out of convenience if for no other reason.

This is especially important when you have children, so that you will have a relationship again when the kids finally move out. One of our friends once told us, “Now that the children are gone, George and I just stare across the table at each other like two strangers. When the kids were around we could always talk about them. Now that they’re gone, I realize they were all we had in common.”

I’ve seen a whole lot of husbands and wives who have been trapped as old people in unhappy marriages and who have spent their golden years sniping at one another until the day they die. How much fun is that?

And the sad thing is, it is totally unnecessary. It only takes a small investment in loving words and kind acts to create a relationship where you will be glad to spend your golden years together. And the good thing is, as long as both parties want a good marriage, it isn’t too late to make yours shiny and new.

It’s so much better to hold hands under a blanket on the love seat or laugh at inside jokes that you’ve been laughing at with each other for forty or fifty years. Do the little things today that you need to do to stay in love with your companion. Every act of love you do is an investment in your happiness retirement account — and it will make sure you are not one of the 17% of unhappy wives of soon-to-be-retired men.


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Nov 16 2015

It’s Not Just the Pickle

Published by under General

When I was in the hospital recently, I was quickly informed about the purpose of hospitals. “You’re not here to rest and recuperate and get better,” a nurse told me pointedly when I asked why they insisted on awakening me at midnight and at 4 a.m. to check my vitals and to pump me full of drugs. “You’re here to take medicine.”

I guess she set me straight.

But having spent a whole lot of time in hospitals over the past three years, I can tell you there is a secondary reason for people to go to hospitals. That reason has to do with food.

There are two things you can do with hospital food. You can either eat it, or you can ignore it. I have spent most of my hospital incarceration time in the act of ignoring food. And I mean that completely.

I remember back in January of 2013 (my first major hospital adventure), when an excited hospital employee informed me that I had lost a grand total of 100 pounds while lying in the hospital’s bed. They were so proud of me.

I thought this was somewhat amusing, considering that the hospital’s dietician regularly came to my room and angrily told me I needed to eat something or they were going to put a feeding tube down my throat, force-feeding me some kind of nutritional glop. The hospital’s personnel were apparently not on the same page when it came to my eating habits.

Eventually we reached a compromise. The dietician sent four bottles per day of a dietary supplement named Ensure to my room, which I was to consume instead of food. Fluffy took most of it home, although I occasionally drank a bottle just to be sociable.

But Fluffy eventually started bringing food from home. The most successful food he brought was Jell-O. I could eat several bites of that at a time. But he tried heroically to get me to eat something else. At my request, he brought barbecued ribs. He brought fish sticks.

But it didn’t matter whether he appealed to my adult tastes or my childhood memories — it didn’t work. I just wasn’t going to eat. The strong drugs I was taking had killed my taste buds to the point that only Jell-O tasted passible.

I spent three months not eating food in the hospital. I just couldn’t do it. So a year later, when I ended up in a hospital for a few days, I fully expected I would eat the food. Surprise! Not a bite of food passed my lips.

This time, however, there was a reason. The people at the Loudoun County Hospital informed me that I was diabetic, so I was going to be put on a diabetic diet. My diet would include no salt, no sugar, and no fat.

Leaving out those three essential food groups also means the food has no taste. If the food doesn’t taste good, I’m not going to eat it. Food just isn’t that important to me that I’m going to eat it if it doesn’t taste good. Sorry. Nutrition just isn’t enough of an incentive.

I informed the people at the hospital that I am not diabetic. They took my blood and checked. Surprise! My blood sugar was normal every time they pricked my finger. That did not deter them. As long as their all-knowing computers showed that I was diabetic, then by golly their records were going to trump the actual evidence every time.

I was only in the hospital three or four days. For three or four days, I did not eat. A couple of months later, I was in the hospital again — this time for another two or three days. Once again, their records showed that I was a diabetic. Once again, the blood tests came back normal every time. Once again, no amount of pleading on my part won over the dietician. Once again, I did not eat.

I spent four days in that same hospital this past July, once again masquerading as an unwilling diabetic. I liked the nurses and the doctors in the hospital. I liked everything about the hospital except the whole diabetes experience. Call me a whiner, but I do not like being called a diabetic when I am not. I do not like spending four days without food. I want to be treated as an adult. I want to eat what I want to eat.

Then, in October, I found myself getting sick in Delaware. The closest hospital was Reston Hospital — a place that had been highly recommended by friends — so we thought we’d try it out.

One of the things we discovered when I was put in my room was a menu — an actual menu, just like the ones in restaurants. It had food items on it that I might actually eat. This was an exciting thing to contemplate.

The people at the Reston Hospital were not aware that I was ordering my first hospital food ever. They may have thought I was ordering food for an army, though. I soon learned which entrees would serve two persons, and always ordered one of those entrees for Fluffy and me to share.

I got awfully tired of pizza and quesadillas and build-your-own sandwiches, but those were the big entrée items. I’d order one of those and two cookies, and Fluffy and I were good to go for lunch or dinner. Life was sweet. I was finally living on hospital food, and was happy with my lot in life. And the fact that Fluffy and I were sharing meals meant we even saved on grocery money while I was incarcerated.

Fluffy also found the break room where they kept an entire refrigerator full of food that patients could request. So we could have extra soft drinks, juices, and ice cream cups whenever we wanted them. Food-wise, this was almost as good as being on a cruise.

In addition to meal service, the Reston Hospital
even had a refrigerator of treats.


But then disaster struck. One of the doctors gave me a drug that threw my heart out of rhythm, and a cardiologist came into the picture. He announced that my heart was beating as high as 150 beats per minute. This was not good.

I’m a smart cookie. I knew changes had to be made. I immediately stopped drinking the little six-ounce Coca-Colas from the refrigerator in favor of ginger ale. I was only drinking one a day, but I knew I did not need even that much caffeine. I do not like to act like an adult, but I can when I have to, so I did what needed to be done.

But nooo. This was not enough, apparently. The next time I called down for dinner, the conversation went somewhat like this:

I’d like a ham sandwich on a sub roll, with mayonnaise and mustard and Swiss cheese and a pickle.”

“You can’t have a ham sandwich.”

“What do you mean, I can’t have a ham sandwich?”

“Your cardiologist has put you on a heart-healthy diet.”

Great. Then I’ll have a turkey sandwich on a sub roll, with mayonnaise and mustard and Swiss cheese and a pickle.”

“You can’t have a sub roll. You can have wheat bread.”

Great. Then give me wheat bread.”

“And you can’t have mayonnaise and mustard.

“And you can’t have cheese.

“And you can’t have a pickle.”

“Well then, it sounds like I’m not eating, doesn’t it?”

And I must admit I slammed down the phone hard enough that the poor lady at the other end probably had an earache for the rest of the day.

This particular hospital has a “hospitalist,” who is a doctor who oversees the care of all the patients. Let’s just say she was in my room within fifteen minutes, and the dietary order was overturned within a half hour.

But by then I was angry enough that we got takeout twice that day. Fluffy brought Mexican food in for lunch and Subway sandwiches in for dinner. “Heart-healthy” my left foot! Nobody tells Kathy, queen of the universe, what she can or cannot eat.

By the time a person is sixty-five years old, she should be able to decide whether she wants to eat butter or margarine with her food, and whether that “food” is a biscuit or an English muffin. But we went through this same song and dance when I was hospitalized again the following week, and we had to have the hospitalist overturn the cardiologist’s heart-healthy diet prescription.

You know, I just don’t think that being on a heart-healthy diet, or a low-sodium diet or whatever stupid diet the hospital wants to put you on is going to make a big difference in your life expectancy. Well, maybe if you really are a diabetic, you’ll want to stay away from sugar. But if you really are a diabetic, you know what sugar does to you and you’re going to be smart enough to police yourself.

The average hospital stay is a whopping 4.8 days. Is eating margarine instead of butter for 4.8 days really going to affect your overall health? Call me a cynic, but I can’t believe it’s going to make a life-changing difference.

If there is any one doctrine that is the foundation of Mormonism, it is the concept of free will. We believe we were put on the earth to learn to choose between good and evil. As much as God wants us to choose the good, He will still respect our right to make the wrong choice.

We learn freedom of choice as small children. The concept is hardwired in us, so that a three-year-old will be happier with his coloring of a landscape if the sky is the green he chose rather than the blue his mother put in his hand with a gentle reminder that the sky is blue, not green.

The way we grow to maturity is to learn from our mistakes. If we make the wrong choices today, we may choose the right tomorrow. And if we continue to make the wrong choices, we will suffer the consequences of our actions until it may eventually dawn on us that our suffering is the result of our own poor decisions.

Of course, we can only learn from our mistakes if we are given the freedom to make those mistakes in the first place. When people try to tie our hands and take our freedoms away from us — even if those freedoms are as frivolous as choosing whether we can have a pickle with our sandwich at lunch — we do not take it kindly.

It is not the pickle that is important. It is the freedom to choose the pickle that symbolizes everything.

As I lay in the hospital bed, I realized that I had very few choices that were under my control. I could not choose when to be awake or when to sleep. The moment I drifted off, someone invariably came into the room to draw blood or otherwise bother me. As the nurse pointedly told me, I was not there to rest and recuperate and get well. I was there to take medicine.

I could not choose to be fully dressed. My underwear and my modesty had taken flight before I ever entered the hospital room.

I could not even choose whether to lie on my back or lie on my side. The air mattress dictated that I lie on my back at all times. It was not uncomfortable (indeed, it was a $100,000 bed, so it darn well should have been comfortable), but for nine days in a row and for the additional three days afterwards, I reclined in one position and one position only.

What could I do? I could choose whether to read or watch television, and if I watched TV I could choose the station. I could choose to be grouchy or to be cheerful. (I chose to be cheerful, and from what the nurses told me, this was a decision that many patients did not elect.)

And most of the time, I could choose to have a pickle with my ham sandwich, which was on a sub roll, served with mayonnaise and mustard and a slice of cheese. When I couldn’t make that little choice, it upset me. Big time.

Next time you’re tempted to make an arbitrary rule affecting what somebody else — your child, your student, your patient, your constituent, or somebody who works for you — can do, please remember this. It’s not just the pickle. Freedom of choice is important to human beings. It’s hardwired into us.

Let us choose.


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



2 responses so far

Nov 09 2015

The Elephant and the Hospital

Published by under General

A couple of weeks ago I described a delightful trip we had taken, but I didn’t talk about how it ended, which was not nearly as enjoyable.

When Fluffy and I were driving to Atlantic City we saw a farmer’s market just as we crossed into New Jersey. We stopped to take some pictures and saw some of the prettiest tomatoes we ever did see.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I am not a fan of tomatoes. I have never liked tomatoes. But these tomatoes had us fantasizing, and Fluffy and I made a point of stopping on the drive home to pick some up.

Some tomatoes can make a tomato-lover out of

the most jaded tomato-hater.


Fluffy picked up six tomatoes, plus a basil plant and a big basket of yams. We decided to make a whole bunch of BLT sandwiches, plus some insalatas caprese. So after Fluffy got in the car again, I got a pen and paper and started making a grocery list. Next we only had to determine where we would stop on the way home in order to get the best baguettes and the nicest mozzarella cheese.

As we crossed the bridge into Delaware, however, my body started giving me different marching orders. I got a sudden and severe case of the chills, and the chills always mean one thing: I need to get to the hospital, fast.

Instead of choosing the best supermarket, the question quickly became whether to go to my regular hospital or the Reston Hospital, which was closer. The Reston Hospital won out. We didn’t even stop at home to offload the tomatoes and our other trip treasures first.

I’m never exactly sure why I’m in the hospital, mind you – except for the fact that my body loves infections, and seems to want to collect them all. The word I heard most often this time was “sepsis,” but I also heard “cellulitis” more than once.

A poster in the hospital hallway happily proclaimed that sepsis was the infection du jour. It also pointed out that I was on a countdown once I got it, and perhaps it was a good thing we had headed straight for the hospital without dallying at home first.


My infectious diseases specialist (and it’s embarrassing to say I’ve had the same guy for three years now, who follows me around when I’ve had one infectious disease after another) said, “It’s goot you know to come in fast, because fen you get sick you go downhill qvick.”

How right he is.

I checked in on Wednesday. By Sunday, I was going stir-crazy. Those tomatoes were calling my name, to say nothing of the time I was losing with Fluffy at home, and the work I should have been doing but that was being done by others. So when I was promised a Monday discharge, I was pretty excited.

The hospital sandwiches I was served were a pathetic substitute

for the Fluffy-made BLTs I had envisioned.


Of course, promises made in hospitals are made to be broken.

Monday I awoke with a hacking cough. I do not cough gently. My coughs come up from my toes. I waited to get discharged. When I did not get discharged, let’s just say Fluffy did not take the news gracefully.

Although Fluffy did not take the news with good cheer, the doctors were more than excited to keep me. Whichever doctor was on charge that day decided to shoot the medical big guns at me, and I was suddenly bombarded with a pharmaceutical salvo that was the equivalent of nuclear war.

My body responded in the only way it knew how. It came up with a whole new host of symptoms, and then the doctor who was in charge the next day responded with his favorite drug, which (of course) was administered in addition to the drug that had been prescribed on Monday.

Every day I got worse and worse and worse. The doctors just saw me as getting sicker and sicker and sicker, so they kept piling one drug on top of another. I was getting closer and closer to death.

Fluffy and I had a different perspective altogether. We decided that just maybe it was the drugs that were making me sicker, and that if I didn’t get out of there soon, I was only going to leave that hospital in a pine box.

I didn’t finally escape until Friday — nine whole nights after I had first checked in. By then I had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a lifelong heart problem (or so the cardiologist would have me believe). Fluffy and I suspect that as soon as the drugs are out of my system, all these weird things are going to go away and I’m going to be back to normal, or at least what passes for normal on Planet Kathy.

As far as hospitals go, I really liked the one in Reston. I had a great bed in a private room, and the nursing staff was stellar. I think it is my new favorite hospital, although I don’t want to return there any time soon. But I longed to have a doctor who looked at Kathy as a whole person, and not as a heart or a set of lungs or an immune system. It just didn’t happen.

If there had been a patient advocate who looked at me as me, he or she could have looked at my chart and said, “Here’s what’s going on. You put her on prednisone for her lungs, and her heart went out of rhythm. Prednisone can cause atrial fibrillation. Let’s get her off the prednisone, and see if the a-fib goes away. There’s no need for panic here. This isn’t a lifelong situation.”

But there wasn’t a patient advocate. Instead there was a lung doctor prescribing prednisone and a heart doctor panicking and deciding I had a permanent, debilitating heart problem. It took Kathy going home and checking the internet to see that prednisone, sure enough, can cause atrial fibrillation.

What I needed was a mad Dr. Fluffy who looked at the whole Kathy,

instead of just my heart or my lungs.


Why didn’t the hospital know that? Because doctors have tunnel vision, that’s why. They are trained in their own area of expertise, and they don’t have time to focus on the big picture.

As far as the cardiologist was concerned, the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation was the important thing. How I got it was immaterial. He was interested in what was happening with my heart. The rest of Kathy was a bag o’ flesh surrounding my heart — something that said hi, and that answered his questions as he asked them. We got along just fine, but the heart was the bottom line as far as he was concerned.

The longer I stayed in that hospital, the more I felt like the elephant in that old poem, “The Blind Men and the Elephant (a Hindoo Fable),” by John Godfrey Saxe:

The Blind Men and the Elephant
A Hindoo Fable


IT was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.


The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! — but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”


The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried:”Ho! — what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘t is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”


The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”


The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘T is clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”


The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”


The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”


And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

There were a lot of blind doctors in that hospital. All of them worked hard on me, but I don’t think any of the doctors saw the whole elephant, even though I was lying there in the bed for all of them to observe.

It isn’t just doctors who fail to see the whole picture, however. We are all guilty of selective vision, as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us:

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Selective vision is part of the human picture. We look at others and think we know what is going on in their lives, but we are woefully ignorant. We judge them based on our limited understanding, but we only see bits and pieces. We never see the whole thing.

It is only God who sees us completely. It is only God who knows us from the inside out. The next time I am tempted to nod my head sagely and think I know what is going on in the mind or the heart of another, I hope I remember the doctors in the hospital — each of whom looked at a small piece of me and thought he knew the whole.


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Nov 02 2015

Ravening Wolves

Published by under General

Several things have happened lately that have reminded me of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

We live in a time where we probably encounter these wolves every day of our lives, unless you decide to spend the day in bed with your head under the covers. Here are just a few examples from the past few months.

Fluffy and I have been on Facebook for a couple of years. We resisted it for a long time, but kept getting emails from people inviting us to be their Facebook friends. All things considered, we enjoy the Facebook experience. It has brought us closer to family, friends, church folks and other groups that we support and enjoy.

Fluffy probably gets on Facebook once or twice a day, but I often go for days without looking at it. We are not the kind of Facebook people who document our daily lives there. If you want to find out when we use the restroom, you will not find that out on Facebook.

One morning Fluffy turned on his computer to find a couple of strange questions sent via email. “Did you really win $100,000 in the DC Lottery?” asked one. Another email asked “Did you send me a Facebook friend request? I thought we were already friends.”

About that time the phone rang. It was some friends warning us that Fluffy was being spoofed on Facebook. Somebody had opened a new account using the same name as his. They even stole his picture from Facebook and used that for the account picture.

We didn’t even realize you could have two accounts with the same name, but we guess Facebook allows that (good news for all you John Smiths out there).

Then the perpetrators sent out friend requests to all of the friends that Fluffy already had. Those who were unlucky enough to accept those requests then started getting messages “from Fluffy” inviting them to play the lottery or help out a Nigerian prince willing to share a fortune.

Our friends on the phone had realized what was happening, and decided to have a little fun with the fake Fluffy. They responded to his messages and tried (without success) to get a phone number or address from him.

Fluffy did some research on Facebook, and filed a complaint against the new account. There was even a complaint category of “someone is impersonating me,” so this must be something that happens quite often. Within an hour, the new account had disappeared.

The second “wolf” experience also happened on Facebook. We were not involved with this one, but did read about it after the fact. In this case the wolf was not trolling for money, but was just having a little fun at the expense of others. We had to admit that it did give us a chuckle.

Like many businesses, the Target stores have a Facebook account. They use it to advertise sales and new items and to get feedback from their customers. But someone else (with no connection to Target) opened a new account named “Ask Target,” and used the familiar target logo as the picture associated with the account.

“Ask Target” then visited the official Target area on Facebook, leaving snippy responses to the comments of real Target customers as though he were a bona fide Target representative.

If someone complained about the quality of a product or service, the fake Target representative would give a helpful response like this one: “Maybe you are too stupid to shop at Target, and you should spend your money somewhere else.”

Needless to say, “Ask Target” is hardly a great ambassador for the Target name. He does provide a little entertainment for people visiting the Target website, however. The people who suspect that “Ask Target” is not legitimate get a little enjoyment out of his shenanigans. The people who believe he is a legitimate Target employee provide the entertainment by getting angrier and angrier at “Ask Target’s” comments.

My last “wolf” example happened just yesterday. Someone left an “urgent” message on our phone that we needed to call him back toll-free at a number with an 876 prefix. There was something familiar about that prefix, so Fluffy decided to do some research before returning the call. Sure enough, Wikipedia gave us the real scoop:

The 876 area code (Jamaica) has been linked to a form of telephone fraud known as the “one ring scam.” The person perpetuating the scam calls the victim via a robo-dialer or similar means, sometimes at odd hours of the night, then hangs up when the phone is answered with the hope that they will be curious enough to call the number back.

When the victim does this, an automatic $19.95 international call fee is charged to their account, as well as $9.00/min thereafter. Similar scams have been linked to Grenada (area code 473), Antigua (area code 268), the Dominican Republic (area code 809) and the British Virgin Islands (area code 284).

President Ronald Reagan used the phrase “trust but verify” when he was in the process of negotiating arms agreements. That is probably a good motto for those of us who live in the age of cross-dressing wolves. We try not to be cynical or negative in our dealings with others. But sometimes a little research can save a lot of grief when that little bell starts ringing in our heads.

I will close, as I opened, with a quote from Jesus:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10: 28)

I’ve met wolves who have stolen my money. That annoyed me and made me less trusting, but I do not fear them. But we should all fear those wolves who covet our souls, and use their dangerous ideas and philosophies to lead us gradually but relentlessly down to hell.


This article first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.



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Oct 26 2015

Living the High Life on a Budget

Published by under General

Several years ago my husband Fluffy was an officer in a software group that met twice a year for a weekly convention. Because software dweebs from all over the U.S. belonged to this organization, the conventions were held all over the country. Most of the time I accompanied him, so we got to visit hotels all over the continent. We visited Orlando, Tampa, New York City, Nashville, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Phoenix, Washington D.C., San Francisco and other places that I no longer even remember. We even went out of the country once, when we met in Montreal.

Because this was a large group (500-1500+ attendees), the meetings were always held in metropolitan areas where there were large hotels equipped to hold convention meetings. This means we always stayed in nice hotel chains, and had great rooms.

Even though Fluffy was working, these still became mini-vacations for us, and it was like having an extra two weeks of vacations per year (probably less so for Fluffy, because he spent most of the time in meetings). In addition to these conventions, he also attended several computer-related classes each year where we stayed in nice places. During many years we traveled as much as three months of the year.

These were also cheap vacations, because Fluffy’s employer picked up most of the costs. We would have to pay for my plane ticket and meals, of course. And sometimes the hotel would charge a few dollars more for an extra person. But one of his employers even picked up my travel costs as an extra perk, because they knew I liked to travel with him.

On a couple of occasions, we were even lucky enough to get our hotel room upgraded to one of the executive floors where they had extra perks like appetizers, snacks and bottled drinks. When we went out to eat, we also went to nice places because Fluffy’s expense account would at least cover his meals.

So for nearly three decades, we felt like we were really living the high life. We could choose hotels and restaurants where money was not a consideration, and feel like we were rich and famous, even though it was just twice a year.

When Fluffy retired, we knew that some financial adjustments were in order, and lamented the fact that our days of traveling like Donald Trump were probably behind us. And indeed, most of our post-retirement trips have involved budget hotels and restaurants for which we have coupons.

But occasionally the stars align, and we can feel like big shots again.

This happened last week, when Fluffy scored us a great hotel up in Atlantic City. The hotels there are offering great prices, because it is off season, and because fewer people are going there. The big draw of Atlantic City has always been, of course, gambling. But because surrounding states have opened their own casinos, one of the big draws of the city is no longer there.

So there are lots of big empty hotels that are looking for people to stay there and hopefully visit their casinos, especially during the winter months when it is not vacation season.

One secret to get a cheap hotel is to visit the discount travel web sites. This deal we got through TravelZoo (, but we belong to a whole bunch of them. Once you register (for free) you will get lots of emails full of travel bargains.

The rate that Fluffy got us was for $65 per night. We still had to pay some extra fees and taxes on top of that, but we also got a $20 credit per day that could be used to cover parking and food in the hotel restaurants. So taking all the fees and credits into account, the bottom line was $64.10 per night. That price is more than our usual budget trip, but not by much.

We had also requested a wheelchair-accessible room, so I could use my wheelchair and power scooter in the room. When we checked in, we were told that we had been upgraded to a suite. That was sweet indeed!

This is our two-room suite where we could have entertained at least 20 other guests.

We were also in a corner room, up on the 52nd floor. On one side we could see the city, and on the other side we could see the ocean. It was a great view, both during the day and after the sun went down. It was a huge room with both a living room and a bedroom. We could have saved the parking fee by parking our car in the living room, with extra room to spare. The sign on the door said the normal room rate was $250-$750 per night. Not a bad deal for $64.10.

This was one of the views from our bargain-priced room. Another window overlooked the Atlantic Ocean and the boardwalk.

One nice thing about the hotel is that it was right on the boardwalk. In fact, one of the restaurants where we ate overlooked the boardwalk, and we could see people walking and running by, while we were doing our own exercising by visiting the buffet.

We visited the boardwalk twice during our stay. This picture was taken near sunset. Our major exploration was the next day, when it was earlier and very sunny and beautiful.

Exploring the boardwalk was a lot of fun. It was typical of most beach towns, with shops offering fast food, T-shirts, and cheap souvenirs. There were also lots of big-name hotels, casinos and restaurants. We even found a tribute to the Miss America pageant, which has been held in Atlantic City for more than 20 years.

This was a tribute to the Miss America pageant, which calls Atlantic City home.

Even though it was a short trip, it was delightful. I had never walked on the Atlantic City boardwalk before, and that was great fun (even though technically I used my scooter and not my feet). The weather was beautiful for the entire trip, and we did not feel like we were breaking our budget while having (what felt like) an expensive vacation.

I really liked this sign that was for sale in one of the souvenir shops. I think it applies to many of the great women (and men) that I know.

This is a lesson that we all need to remember in life. Sometimes the biggest obstacles to reaching our goals are within our own minds. We can still eat steak on a hamburger budget, but it takes some planning, research, patience, hard work and good luck.

If you really want something, make it a matter of thought, planning, and even prayer. Doors will be opened, and miracles will occur. This has been one of the things that I regularly get reminded of, and it happened again last week on a boardwalk in New Jersey.


This column first appeared in the Nauvoo Times.

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