May 12 2014

Recognizing Who We Are

Published by Kathy under General

I was staggering across the church gym — excuse me, “cultural hall” — on a recent Sunday, trying mightily to get to our pew in the chapel, when I was interrupted by strangers who wanted to say hello.

I need to be honest here. I am not exactly thrilled when people interrupt me when I am trying to walk from one place to another. Walking takes every bit of my concentration and my strength.

Picking up my right foot takes so much effort that I can barely get it a quarter inch off the carpet even with every ounce of focus. When people distract me, my focus shifts and I am just as likely to do a face-plant on the ground.

So when I looked away from the carpet and at unfamiliar faces, I was confused. I placed the faces in front of me as strangers. It took me moments and then long seconds before I realized I was staring at my former bishop and his wife from way back in the early 1990s. They had come all the way to our meetinghouse from their hotel in Leesburg, twelve miles away, just to say hi to Fluffy and me.

Not only had Lance Moss been our bishop, but Fluffy and I had home taught the Moss family for the entire time they had lived in our ward. We had even sat behind them in church, so we had enjoyed a deep and abiding relationship with them. They had not been casual acquaintances, to say the least.

But then the Mosses had moved to Leesburg in the mid-1990s and we had seen them only sporadically since then. And they had moved out of the state, back to Utah, years and years ago. We had not expected to ever see them again. We had been Facebook friends for several years, so we did have contact on some level.

So when Jean Moss headed toward me with outstretched arms, I was so focused on walking that it took longer than a moment for me to redirect my attention long enough to realize that I was looking at people I knew, to say nothing that they were people I dearly loved.

We were able to visit with the Mosses for a few minutes before church started, and they came over to our home the following evening for dinner. Fluffy took a picture of them before they left, and he posted it the next day on Facebook so our Facebook friends who also remembered the Mosses could see it.

A disquieting thing happened when Fluffy posted the picture on Facebook. As he added the picture, Facebook automatically labeled the picture for him: “with Jean Moss and Lance Moss.”

We have not seen Lance and Jean for at least seven years, and probably closer to a decade. They do not regularly appear on our Facebook page. We do not correspond with them. I did not even recognize them immediately when I saw them in church.

How in tarnation did Facebook immediately recognize their picture and correctly label it when Fluffy uploaded it to Facebook?

Facebook inserted the names of friends who lived across the country, who were not regular correspondents, and whom we hadn’t seen in more than seven years, without Fluffy having to type them in. Creepy.

All I can say is that’s more than a little creepy. At least, that’s what I thought. Fluffy thought it was cool. He was excited about the technology. He doesn’t care about Big Brother having eyes on him, as long as Big Brother is taking advantage of the Cool Factor. Boys are like that. They never grow out of it.

We have all laughed at those television programs where they take a fuzzy security camera picture, sharpen it, and then match it to a known bad guy after scanning the photos of 10,000,000 bad guys in under ten seconds. So we know the technology is there. But in Facebook? And on our computers?

Fluffy did a little digging into the Facebook help screens, and confirmed what we were seeing:

Because photos are such an important part of Facebook, we want to be sure you know exactly how tag suggestions work: When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software — similar to that found in many photo editing tools — to match your new photos to other photos you’re tagged in. We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.

I still don’t know whether I like this or not, but I have to admit the technology is amazing.

But all of this got me thinking about God, and how well he knows all of His children. He knows our face, our voice, our concerns, our strengths and weaknesses, and everything that there is to know about us. He listens to every sincere prayer, and always answers them (although we don’t always like the answers).

He is aware of us every minute of every hour of every day. His office is never “closed,” and he never takes a vacation (I find that last point rather depressing, for His sake).

Even more impressive is the fact that He maintains this relationship with all of His children, which currently number about seven billion people. And how about the billions of people that have already lived and died? I’m sure they are not forgotten either.

We do live in a wonderful age, but I’m sure it is primitive compared to the wonders of God, and the many marvelous things that we have yet to learn about Him and His creations.

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May 05 2014

Retouching Our Lives

Published by Kathy under General

When my husband Fluffy was in college, he took quite an interest in photography. In fact, he took enough photo classes that he ended up with a minor in photography when he graduated. For most of his college years he also worked part-time at the college photo lab, which provided a little extra money and also brought him even closer to the hobby that he loved.

One of the things he learned during that time was the art of photo retouching. You don’t hear that term very often these days, it having been replaced with more descriptive terms such as photo manipulation.

Retouching was the art of making tiny modifications to the surface of the photograph itself to enhance the subject or to remove imperfections. This was long before digital photography, so the printmaking process was more complex and involved things such as negatives, darkrooms, and chemicals.

It seemed that no matter how well you cleaned the negative, there were always dust particles and scratches on it that would appear on the print. So the final step of professional photo production usually involved retouching to remove these small imperfections.

After the print was produced, retouching was done with tiny brushes and paints of various colors. Because most prints were in black and white, those were the only colors that were needed, although brown was also included in the retouching kits for handling sepia-colored photos (this is where a brown tint is applied to a black and white photo).

Scratches and dust spots would usually appear as light spots on the print, so the retouching was simply a matter of mixing a matching paint color and then covering the light spot with tiny dots of paint. Because a photo is composed of millions of tiny dots anyway, the paint dots added during retouching would not be detected.

The basics of retouching could be expanded to improve photos in other ways beyond just imperfections in the negative. Skin wrinkles under the eyes could be removed (always popular with the ladies), as well as reflections in eyeglasses.

Radical retouching could be used to remove distracting backgrounds (the ever-popular telephone pole growing from the head), or even entire people (removing the black sheep from the family photo) after a scandalous divorce or crime or other disappointment that was too heinous to be forgiven.

Restoration of damaged photos could also be done via copying and retouching. Damage from folds and stains could be removed, and even missing portions of the photo could be reconstructed.

As we fast forward to the digital age, we find that retouching or photo modification is more popular than ever. The tiny brushes and paint patches have been replaced with a computer and photo manipulation software.

Fluffy has restored this ancient picture of me. It was actually torn in half, but he put it back together with the magic of PhotoShop.

Although this can still be a tedious process, the power of photo manipulation software is amazing. These days, the camera and the captured image is just the first step of the process, with much of the magic taking place after the photos have been transferred to the computer.

After we have loaded new photos onto the computer, we examine each one and use editing software to improve them. This may involve straightening the horizon, cropping out unwanted objects, correcting red eye (those zombie-like eyes that people have when you use flash in a dark room), correcting the brightness, contrast, and even the color. In extreme cases, it may even involve removing objects.

A few years ago we visited Stonehenge in England. Although Stonehenge looks remote in the pictures, it is actually next to a freeway, and there is a pedestrian path that runs right next to the stone structures.

On a busy day, it is almost impossible to get pictures of the rocks without having a bunch of tourists nearby. But not to worry. Fluffy was obscenely patient in waiting for breaks in the crowd. Then the few people he could not avoid were removed with the editing software. Our photos of Stonehenge would make you think it had been undisturbed for centuries.

Here is Stonehenge, minus the pesky tourists.

For a number of years I ran a lucrative business providing custom photo portraits of people’s dead pets. People would send me pictures of their dead animals, and I would use PhotoShop to provide “watercolor” images of the pets as a remembrance.

In theory, this was an easy proposition. But people would send me pictures of their pet tiger behind a chain link fence and expect me to get rid of the chain link fence. They’d send a picture of the dead hamster after he was dead and expect me to breathe some life into it. They’d send me a picture of half a dog and expect me to draw the back half of the dog onto the front half. All this for $14.95 a pop.

This took a whole lot of work on my end, but PhotoShop and I usually managed to satisfy the customer. I only wish I still had the Before and After pictures of the two whippets behind the fat guy who was lying on a lawn chair in his bathing suit with a beer can perched on his gut.

However, I do have a picture I took last month of the Jefferson Memorial. I took it from a moving car so it was blurry. People used to throw their blurry pictures away. Not anymore! Now we can get out the digital software and use the “watercolor” feature to pretend they were supposed to look that way. Voila! Art!

Thanks to PhotoShop, I can pretend this picture of the Jefferson Memorial is art and not a picture that should have been thrown away.

As I was working on a picture the other day, I was thinking about how Christ is the Master Retoucher of our lives. Just as we use editing software to perfect our photos, He has given us His atonement to perfect our lives.

Although we try mightily to be good people, the portraits of our lives are filled with imperfections. Yet He can correct our perspectives, remove distractions, restore the brightness to our eyes, make sure our balance is perfect, and even remove the ugly stains of sin.

He can take our rather ordinary lives and turn them into stunning masterpieces. Then we can share that wonderful light with others as we help them enhance the portraits of their own souls.

Rarely do you find a photograph that doesn’t benefit from some retouching. And not one of us has lived a life that is free from imperfection. Yet with the help of the Master Retoucher, we can produce a portrait of the human family that is perfect, magnificent, and acceptable to God.

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Apr 28 2014

“All is Well with the World”

Published by Kathy under General

I didn’t go to church on Easter Sunday last year. I was still only a month out of the hospital and our ward was still so full of contagion from the winter that our bishop said he did not want to see my face in church until May, and I complied.

Five months is a long time without church, when you’re a person who is used to going every week. It was especially odd to miss church on Easter, so I was glad to return to church for Easter services this year. Our religion does not have the hoopla at Easter that many churches do. We just have the one program on Easter Sunday. But it was a program I was glad to attend again.

The speakers were good this year, and I was glad to sing the Easter hymns. But what struck me most occurred when we were taking the sacrament. As we were waiting to take the bread and I was saying my own private prayer, I was overwhelmed with the most wonderful feeling. The words I heard to accompany that feeling were these: “All is well with the world.”

I felt awash in peace. The sense that all was right with the world was overwhelming. God had things firmly in hand. Everything was good.

I opened my eyes and looked around me. To my right was Fluffy. I thought of how kind he is, and how many good things he does for me every day.

To my left was Kev. Kev is a young artist who plays with color and light in fascinating ways. He hugged me when he came into the meeting, and it made me feel fuzzy and warm.

In the front of the room was Bishop Mark. He is young (in the sense that everyone in the ward is younger than I am) and lean and energetic. I like to watch him when people are giving their talks, because he is so animated as he listens to them. He likes people. He is a human Jack Russell terrier, except that he doesn’t jump up and down and yip. He is a human Jack Russell terrier in the most excellent sense of the word.

On the right aisle was our home teacher Mike, who had major heart surgery three weeks ago, and who almost had to be physically restrained from coming to church two days later and bearing his testimony. I was sorry he got talked out of going to church; I wanted to hear what he would have said.

In the front of the room was our other home teacher, John, who is a world traveler. John sent us selfies last week from Jerusalem and Petra and Frankfurt and Spain. We never know where he’s going to be next week, but he never misses a home teaching visit, and he usually visits several times during the course of the month.

Lorraine sat in front of us, in her corkscrew orange curls and a purple Easter hat. Other than wearing different jackets, she and her octogenarian mother Mary were dressed in identical Easter outfits. I would have taken a picture if I’d had a camera with me.

As I looked around the room, there were people I had loved for years, people I had just met and was just learning to love, and people whose names I keep mixing up but whom I love anyway.

Earlier in the meeting, we had sustained one of the Young Women to be our new ward chorister. I used to teach Katie, back when I still had a calling in that organization. From the first day she led the music as a twelve-year-old in our Young Women meeting, I’ve been waiting for her to lead the music for our sacrament meetings. She’s probably about fifteen now.

I was so excited to hear her name read out as ward chorister that I shouted out, “Yes!” People around me laughed, but sometimes the rightness of a calling just takes you with joy.

Yes, I thought to myself, as I sat there during the sacrament. All is well in our corner of Zion; “all is well with the world.”

As the feeling of peace washed over me, I realized that not everyone believes all is right with the world. Just this week I had overheard a conversation where people were bemoaning the fact that first a plane had gone missing and then a ferry had sunk. “This whole world is falling apart,” the person had said. “Everything is getting worse and worse.”

It’s true. Things are bleak. The California drought means grocery prices are through the roof. The Great Lakes are still frozen, and commerce is suffering in that region because of it. American politics are so crazy that they are better not thought about. Russia’s incursion into Ukraine may yet be the beginning of World War III. People lie and cheat and steal and kill each other because — well, because they can.

And yet, “All is well with the world.” When I heard it, I knew that it was true. The words may not seem true in the short term. There are going to be wars and natural calamity and horrible things on the horizon. Some of those things are going to be catastrophic. And on a smaller scale, there will be accidents and illness. People we love will get sick and die.

But God knew what He was talking about. He always does, doesn’t He? “All is well with the world.” I felt it. I knew with my whole soul that it was true — that it is true.

All my life, I have been unable to understand how the Atonement works. I’m still unable to understand the mechanics of it, but sitting in that congregation on Easter Sunday, it no longer mattered. I realized that the Atonement has worked for me, and it has worked for the people I love on this side of the veil, and on the other side.

It has worked for billions upon billions of human beings I have never even met — people of all colors and creeds, and who have been walking the earth as long as God’s sons and daughters have peopled the world.

Jesus Christ did the job He set out to do. Good has triumphed over evil. Despite comets and global warming-slash-cooling and wars and all the other things that mankind has thought to do to the earth, all will be well with the world. No — all is well with the world. That is all I need to know.

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Apr 21 2014

When Opportunities Blossom

Published by Kathy under General

We moved to Virginia in 1987. In case that’s just a number to you, let me tell you what was going on in that year.

  • Ronald Reagan was president of the United States.
  • No smoking rules were just starting to take effect inside public buildings. (Here in Virginia, it was not uncommon to be waited on in a store and have the clerk blow smoke in your face.) It would be another fifteen years or so before non-smoking laws started taking effect in restaurants. Because of its love affair with tobacco, Virginia was one of the last states to adopt no-smoking laws.
  • The Fox TV network began, with its first show being “Married With Children.” We watched that show for years. (This shows how culturally discerning Fluffy and I are.) The best of Fox TV’s shows, “The X-Files,” wouldn’t even begin running for another six years.
  • Michael Jackson tried to buy the Elephant Man’s remains. I have no comments about that incident, not being a Michael Jackson fan or a particular follower of the Elephant Man.
  • Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” ice cream flavor was introduced. (Here’s a culinary hint. If you taste cherry in something you are eating but do not see cherries, it is probably almond extract.  That’s what cooks use to get “natural cherry flavoring.”)
  • The first salvaging of the Titanic wreckage was begun by RMS Titanic, Inc. Fluffy and I have been to the burial ground for the bodies that were brought up from the Titanic. The graves were arranged in the shape of the hull of a ship on a hillside in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a Marriott buried there, but he isn’t related to the hotel Marriotts. I asked Mr. Bill Marriott himself.
  • “Star Trek: The Next Generation” premiered. I remember that night. Fluffy and I were in a dingy New York hotel for that one, but we got reception on our television and were able to see Captain Picard in all his glory. What a hunk!
  • The day of infamy for our generation, 9/11, was still 14 years into the future.

Yes, friends and neighbors, 1987 was a long, long time ago. In fact, a whole bunch of the people reading this column were probably not even hatched when Fluffy and I moved to Virginia. We have lived in Virginia for 27 years this year. That is 27 years of glorious Virginia springs — 27 years of dogwoods and redbuds and, well, cherry blossoms.

And therein lies the rub. We live within spitting distance of the White House (oh boy, is that appropriate these days!), at 24.3 miles according to Google Maps. We have many, many friends who commute into Washington, D.C. (referred to around here as “The District”) every day for work. People around here don’t even think twice about driving into the nation’s capital.

So in twenty-seven years of glorious East Coast springs, how many times do you suppose Fluffy and I have gone to see the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington, D.C. — just 24.3 miles from our doorstep? That’s a big goose egg, friends and neighbors. Zip. Zero. Nada.

This is particularly noxious because I have wanted to see the cherry blossoms. Oh yes. In fact, I have a dear friend in Utah who has planned for years to fly all the way to Virginia to have Fluffy and me show her the cherry blossoms, but she keeps finding herself in China or Peru during cherry blossom season, so she hasn’t been able to time a visit at when the cherry blossoms have been blooming.

Every time Dian has told me she was going to be at Machu Picchu or climbing the Great Wall instead of coming to our house during cherry blossom season, I have heaved a sigh of relief. I, you see, have had no earthly idea how to show her the cherry blossoms, because I have never been there. It has been the bane of my existence — or one of them, at any rate.

Saturday before last, a friend of ours, Jeff Stolk, called at about dusk and said he was available for fun and frolic that night. He knew that Fluffy and I had been cooking all day, and he no doubt hoped that fun and frolic would include some tomato tortellini soup and a game or two of pinochle. But no, he had not counted on the brazen Kathy, Queen of the Universe, She Who Will Not Be Denied.

I said, “We’ve never seen the cherry blossoms. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the cherry blossoms after dark?”

There was dead silence at the other end of the line. Finally he said, hesitantly, “Yes, I guess it would.” It was only after we were halfway into the District that we learned this was Jeff’s fourth trip into the District to see the cherry blossoms this week. But we were on our way.

Our friends Jeff and Maura Stolk. If Jeff looks somewhat weary, it’s because he went to see the cherry blossoms four times in one week. He was probably cherry blossomed out long before he took Fluffy and me on that Saturday night.

I had been told by one of the temple workers that nobody goes to see the cherry blossoms after dark, so that would be a good time to go. All I can say about that is that it is not nice to lie in the temple. There were only about 50,000 other people who had the same brilliant idea.

But we did eventually find a parking spot, and the two men got out of the car to take pictures while I stayed behind and enjoyed the crush of humanity and the nighttime breeze.

The Jefferson Memorial at dusk, with cherry trees on the right. (All these pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them with the mouse. Hit the backspace button to restore them to their original size.)

The pale pink cherry blossoms are illuminated by a street lamp.

Only the magic of PhotoShop saves a picture that I took from a moving car, but this is a good illustration of how many blossoms there were. They were everywhere.

Jeff was such a good sport and we had such a grand time seeing the cherry blossoms that Fluffy and I decided to take our temple worker friend’s advice and see the cherry blossoms a second time on Monday.

This excursion took us to the Kenwood neighborhood in Maryland, a small neighborhood that received its own cherry tree plantings when the Tidal Basin in the District did.

Relatively few people know about the Kenwood cherry trees, but there were enough of them that the Kenwood neighborhood was festooned with temporary “No Parking” signs and signs commanding interlopers not to climb on the trees. Scores of tourists, many of them Japanese, wandered up and down the streets of the community.

Fluffy parked me in a wonderful spot, and he went off to take pictures while I remained stationary to take photographs of my own. Monday was probably the last good cherry blossom day before a huge rainstorm on Tuesday wiped everything out, so it was raining cherry blossoms, and there were cherry blossom puddles on the sidewalks and in the streets.

The slightest gust of wind caused a cherry blossom petal snowstorm. (See the "snow" by clicking once with the mouse. Hit backspace to restore the picture to the original size.)

Petal puddles pooled on sidewalks and in streets.

This gate with matching lanterns made a picturesque place for me to sit while Fluffy wandered. I never got tired of looking at the scenery and sticking my camera out the window on the side or up top to take a picture or two.

Every tree was covered with thousands of sprigs, just like this one. If they only produced cherries, all of the D.C. area would be in for a cherry feast.

As we drove off to finish our adventure in a Mexican restaurant, Fluffy and I marveled that we had lived in this area for so many years and had never taken advantage of such a glorious opportunity. But that’s the way people are.

God has given us an amazing world, full of blessings that are ours to take. But how many of them do we actually take advantage of?

Children are so good at exploring the world around them. They dig in the dirt for bugs. They walk in the rain. They jump in the puddles, and they pull everything out from the closets or the cabinets. They want to discover everything.

When we get older, we tend to get complacent. We tend to get caught in our routines, and we forget to explore. We forget that there are blessings right under our noses. All we have to do is to open our eyes, and to look.

Just this week, Fluffy found a box in a closet upstairs. A friend of ours had found a whole bunch of family pictures — my family pictures — all over the upstairs of our house when she was designing my office, and she had put it in a box that she plainly labeled “Family Pictures.” I had never even looked through the box.

Fluffy brought the box downstairs two days ago, and we have been going through it ever since. What a treasure trove it is! It has pictures of my mother I have never seen. My mother died in 1970 and never allowed her picture to be taken as long as I could remember, so pictures of her are rare treasures.

This picture of my mother as a teenager has been in my possession for decades, but I never saw it until two days ago because I never went through a box of old family photographs.

The recent experiences with cherry blossoms and with old family pictures have shown me that we are surrounded by blessings that are ours, if we will only stop to take advantage of them.

God showers us with gifts every day, but we are so busy with our lives that we often don’t even see them. We ignore them as Fluffy and I did with the cherry blossoms, or figuratively put them in a box and shove them in a closet, the way I did with my treasured family photographs and genealogy.

What gifts has God given me that I have yet to discover? What treasures has God given you that are yet to be unwrapped and appreciated? Look around you. You may be surprised and gratified at the presents that are right underneath your nose, ready to be opened and savored, and to show you how much He loves you.

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Apr 14 2014

A World of Too Many Choices

Published by Kathy under General

Years ago, Fluffy and I were given a book called The Paradox of Choice. The premise of the book was that the more choices we get, the greater our potential for being unhappy.

The author divided people into two groups — Maximizers and Satisficers. Maximizers are people who have to have everything just right. Satisficers are people who are okay with having things that are just good enough. According to the author, Maximizers are never happy, because the moment they get the best car or the best computer, a brand new one comes out that is just slightly better.

We have many friends who are Maximizers, and we have seen how true this is. The best sound system in the world is only good for a few months. The best computer system in the world isn’t good for that long. The largest TV screen is only good until a larger one appears. And it drives Maximizers crazy to know there’s something better than what they have, and they don’t have it.

Fortunately for us, Fluffy and I are Satisficers. It isn’t something we chose. It isn’t something we attained by virtue, because we certainly aren’t virtuous. I think it’s something that’s genetic, like eye color. It’s just the way you’re wired.

We have dear friends who are Maximizers, who do a whole lot of home remodeling projects and who have helped us do a lot of home remodeling in our own home. At one point they volunteered to do the herculean task of painting our two-story living room and foyer. This required replacing lighting fixtures, doing the ceiling and trim painting, and basically spending a couple of weeks climbing up on scaffolding.

I spent days choosing a color for the room and finally chose a dark parchment color called jute. I was happy. Life was good. We bought a zillion gallons of the stuff. Our friends got on the scaffolding and, like Michelangelo, we started painting.

They painted with the speed of gazelles — if gazelles could hold paintbrushes, that is.

Ten minutes later, when they had painted a whole lot of wall, I looked at what they had painted. “That’s a very dark jute,” I said. They looked at the can. They said, “The can says the color is pashmina. Let’s go back to the store and change it.” They got off their backs and started to climb off the scaffolding.

But I, like Fluffy, am a Satisficer. Satisficers realize that the same room can look equally beautiful in a million different colors. Perhaps I had not chosen pashmina, but it would work. In fact, the dark taupe that was now on the wall was the color I had wanted to paint the room until other friends had talked me out of it. This was a happy accident I could live with. Best of all, it wasn’t my fault.

“Keep painting,” I said. Fluffy agreed. Our friends protested, but I’m sure they were glad they didn’t have to go back to the paint store and redo the work. I’m happy to say that our artwork and furniture look just as good with pashmina as they would have looked with jute. We bought more furniture to match the pashmina. The room looks great. We are happy. Life is good.

That’s the joy of being a Satisficer. When plans go awry, all you have to do is throw away the plans and go in whatever direction life is taking you. We Satisficers don’t have to have the Best Dishwasher on the Market. As long as we have a good one that works, we’re happy. And if the good one that works breaks, we’re still happy — as long as we have a friend who will wash the dishes with us.

Maximizers don’t have the luxury we do. The more choices they see in front of them, the scarier life gets. And that could be one reason we’re seeing so many young people with what I call Peter Pan Syndrome. They’re getting older, but they refuse to grow up.

When I was a kid, girls had three choices when they left high school. They could get a job, they could go to college, or they could get married. (For Mormon girls who were still unmarried by the age of 21, they could serve as missionaries as a fourth option.)

Boys could get a job, go to college, or join the military. If they were Mormon boys, they went on a mission when they reached the age of 18. That was about the extent of it.

And those were enough choices for both young Satisficers and Maximizers to handle.

Today, the choices are endless. Not only can girls get jobs, go to college, or get married, but now the Mormon girls can consider missionary service as young as age 19, or they can choose to go when they are older.

Boys and girls are starting to think about “gap years” of travel after high school, adopting a custom that has long been followed by young Brits and other Europeans. They pick up their backpacks and their maps; buy an open-ended ticket across the Atlantic and wander — much to the consternation of the parents they leave at home.

The concept of travel is a heady one, but how do they do it? Do they do it alone or with a friend? Which friend? What if they find a girlfriend along the way and want to ditch the friend? And where do they go? Which European countries? Or maybe they’ll go to Asia instead. How much of a barrier would the language be? Which languages could they get by without speaking?

Instead of going to school, many of them are thinking about helping out in third-world countries. But where do they help out? There are so many third-world countries. What if they choose the wrong one? Should they go to Thailand? Ghana? Somewhere in Central America? What about Haiti? That’s a place closer to home. Which place needs them the most?

And once they choose a country, what should they be doing? Should they be digging wells? Should they be rebuilding places that have been destroyed by storm or by war? Should they be helping orphans? Should they be helping plant gardens? There are just so many needs.

Maybe they’ll just go to school and study abroad. But even then, which country will they choose? There are so many choices. How do you choose the right one? Will a semester in Jerusalem be too dangerous? Will a semester in France be too frivolous? Will a semester in London be too much like home? What if they choose Salzburg and their future husband/wife is in Barcelona?

The same is true of dating. The world is full of eligible candidates, and college campuses are rampant with them. Jane is beautiful, but Eliza has a great personality and Betsy would be a terrific mother to your children. And if you pick any one of them, you could meet a better one a year from now — or not. Should you choose one of them, or should you wait? How do you choose?

Every door a Maximizer opens means he is shutting other doors all around the universe. The thought of it is paralyzing. There are too many choices, and sometimes when there are too many choices, the easiest thing to do is to make no choice at all.

If your child finishes college and then knocks on your door, expecting to reclaim his old bedroom and his old place in the family, he may be a Maximizer living in a world of too many choices. But all is not lost.

In the recent April general conference, Elder Ronald L. Hallstrom gave hope to Maximizers everywhere when he said, “Once any of us conclude, ‘That’s just the way I am,’ we give up our ability to change.”

If you’re harboring a Maximizer in your basement, or if you’re raising a Maximizer who is yet to graduate from high school, there is hope. Give him love and guidance. Narrow his choices in subtle ways. Give him tough love when necessary.

Remember, roughly half the population is made up of Maximizers. Maximizers can be happy and successful people. In fact, you may be one yourself.

Life has always been about choices, and our happiness depends in some degree on the choices we make. Although our array of choices sometimes seems unlimited, those who approach these decisions with thoughtfulness will muddle through somehow and eventually find their destiny.

Perhaps those of us who have already been down some of these roads can serve as guides for those still trying to navigate the big decisions of life. Stranger things have happened.

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Apr 07 2014

Serving with a Happy Heart

Published by Kathy under General

When I arrived home from the hospital last year, Fluffy was automatically promoted to head chef of the Kidd household. This was fine with me. Fluffy always did enjoy cooking, and I was too weak to wield a spatula with any authority. Besides, my wheelchair was so low that I could not even see into the frying pan while it was in use on the cooktop.

Things are better now. I’m stronger. I can pick up a knife and wield a spoon. My wheelchair has been adjusted so that I can almost see what’s cooking on the cooktop if I sit up really straight, and most of the time I’m out of the wheelchair and sitting in real chairs anyway. But Fluffy continues his head chef role.

It makes sense. Fluffy still loves to cook. And he’s retired now, while I’m still employed on a part-time basis. He does have more time to cook. Plus, he can reach the refrigerator and the cabinets and the cooktop. I help him with some of the big cooking projects, but he does the day-to-day cooking chores.

With Fluffy as our head chef, I never know what to expect. Last Tuesday, for example, when he served our dinner plates, I asked him what we were eating in the semi-darkness. He replied, “Leftovers.”

“What leftovers?” I asked, as I picked up a slender triangle of finger food.

“That’s part of a quesadilla,” he said.

I dimly remembered the quesadilla. We made it a couple of weeks ago when we invited friends over, and we had one slice left. It was a quesadilla in name only because the filling was not Mexican. Fluffy had made Carolina-style pulled-pork barbecue with our last pork loin, and that was what was between the two tortillas, along with some cheese and jalapeños.

Next to the small sliver of quesadilla was a helping of red beans and rice. We made the New Orleans-style red beans with some leftover ham from this month’s empty-nester family home evening group. They were great red beans and rice, and I was sorry to see the end of them. We’ll have to make some more as soon as we get some more leftover ham.

The other third of the plate was filled with corned beef and cabbage, a leftover from St. Patrick’s Day. But that wasn’t all, because between our plates was a small bowl of smoked salmon and crackers, left over from when we had invited guests over on Saturday.

In one meal, you could say we sent our taste buds from Mexico to North Carolina to New Orleans to Ireland to Alaska. Eating with Fluffy is always an adventure.

Sometimes our friends do not like the way their husbands or wives do things around the house. They drop offhanded comments, usually “jokes” in front of their spouses, telling how their companions hang the toilet paper backwards or make the bed so it has lumps in it. Or sometimes they set the table so the knives and forks are reversed or fold the socks wrong or put the towels on the towel rack incorrectly.

Frankly, I think our friends are crazy.

Now that I have a househusband doing these things for me, I realize there are only two things that are important.

The first thing that is important is that the work is done at all. If you’re a wife whose husband helps around the house, count your blessings. There are a lot of husbands who do not help at all. Period. They do not change diapers. They do not make beds. They do not do laundry. They do not cook.

Yes, this is the 21st Century. Things are different now from the way they were when I was growing up and men were men and women were women. Even so, there are no guarantees that men will help do the so-called women’s work in your household.

Even if the wife is working full-time outside the home and coming home to a houseful of children, there are many, many husbands who still assume the wife will cook and clean and do the laundry as well as do the lion’s share of the child-raising.

Ladies, if your husband helps around the house, consider yourself blessed.

The second thing that is important is if he does those things with a happy heart. Fluffy may not sing as he works (well, sometimes he does), but he is so happy he almost pops. He just has the sunniest disposition I have ever seen. He’s happy when he makes the beds, and when he cooks dinner, and when he washes the dishes. He’s just plain happy.

Sometimes he pauses when he works and detours through my office and kisses me on the top of my head. Then he goes off to work again, hanging up the clothes or cleaning the kitchen or making the bed while I do my small part to pay the bills.

How fortunate I am!

No, I didn’t do anything to deserve this. Fluffy just made up his mind to be happy. It’s a choice all of us make. Whether you’re a husband or a wife, or whether you’re even married or single, happiness is a choice. People decide whether to be happy. Fluffy decided to be a happy worker.

I have always found it fascinating to interact with other people and observe the attitudes they bring to their jobs. We’ve all had those store clerks who won’t even acknowledge you. Mindlessly they ring up your purchases without saying a word, thinking only of the clock and when their shift will be over.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’ve all met those people who bring great enthusiasm to their work, even while doing jobs that many people would consider menial.

Years ago we met a little man who worked in the grocery store on Saturdays, playing Caribbean music and selling his crab cake sandwiches that he made on the spot. One of the other workers told us that his full-time job was being a stock broker. He owned his own business and he was rich, rich, rich. But he sold the sandwiches on Saturday because he really loved cooking and interacting with other people.

Oh, that everyone could bring such passion to their assignments!

For those of you who haven’t chosen your husbands (or wives) yet, take this message to heart. Look for people who serve with a happy heart. Are they happy when they go to work in the morning? Are they happy when they come home at night? Are they happy when they take out the garbage or scrub the toilet or feed the dog? Are they happy when they come in from shoveling snow or mowing the lawn for you?

Those nasty jobs will always be there to do, so why make them nastier than they need to be because of your attitude?

And it helps if you don’t have to have things done your way. If you stand over your husband and tell him that he’s putting the dishes in the dishwasher the “wrong” way, I can tell you from sad experience it will be a long time before he puts the dishes in the dishwasher again.

Finally, if your husband (or wife) isn’t serving with a happy heart, one way to make him or her happier in service is to show a little appreciation. If you can thank him for washing the dishes or cleaning off the counter or even putting his dirty socks in the hamper — and mean it when you say it — he will be more likely to do it again in the future. You will find that a little genuine appreciation goes a long way.

A good friend of ours likes to say that most people get married to have someone serve them, when in reality their goal should be to serve their spouse. Sadly, some never learn this truth, or learn it through hard experience. Those who truly find joy in life are those who serve others and do so with a cheerful heart.

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Mar 31 2014

Noah Way!

Published by Kathy under General

I actually went to a movie last month. I know going to a movie isn’t a big deal for most of you, but prior to this year the last movie I saw in a theater was The Passion of the Christ, which came out in 2004. I like to shoot for one real movie per decade.

There is a reason for this. There are people in movie theaters. People talk when I am trying to watch the movie. Even worse, people chew. They chew, and chew, and chew. And they chew loudly. I have a thing about loud chewing, and it really sets me off my feed. My idea of a nightmare is to be surrounded by hundreds of people, all chewing loudly and at the same time.

As far as I am concerned, sitting in a movie theater represents one of Dante’s nine circles of hell. It is probably the third one, which Dante defined as gluttony. But in all fairness, the talking bothers me just as much. As humorist Tom Lehrer once said, “I feel that if a person can’t communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.” If you’ve paid to watch a movie, watch the movie.

Okay. I’m old. Old people get crotchety. What can I say?

Fluffy feels the same way I do about movie theaters, so we watch movies in our cabins on cruise ships, on television, or not at all. But we usually don’t even miss them. Most of the movie trailers that are even mildly interesting to us end up being rated R, and we tend to stay away from those because of the raunch factor. (“R” does stand for “raunchy,” doesn’t it?) But I digress.

This year we went to see The Saratov Approach, which was a movie based on a true story of Mormon missionaries that were kidnapped in Russia. You probably didn’t see it because it was only shown on a few screens in the United States, but one of them happened to be only ten miles from our house.

We went during the day on a Thursday, when there were only six people in the theater. I am glad to report that none of them were talkers or chewers. It was a great movie. You should go see it, even if you aren’t a Mormon, except that it’s probably gone from the theaters now and you’ve missed your opportunity. Bummer. Maybe you can find it for rent later this year.

We had such great success going to see The Saratov Approach that when the television commercials for the upcoming movie Noah started running, Fluffy and I decided this was definitely a movie we were going to see. This was going to be a two-movie decade for the Kidd household!

We were fascinated to see the trailers. It was an all-star cast. Noah was a big-budget biblical epic, just like the Cecil B. Demille classics that were popular when we were kids. In fact, it was the first one that had been produced since we were kids, so it was a real milestone. We needed to support it, so there would be more just like it.

But then the ugly rumors started surfacing. Apparently Noah’s story had been Hollywoodized on its way to the movie theaters. God, Who once had a starring role in the story, barely makes a cameo appearance in Noah. And instead of inspiring a prophet, this Babylonian deity inspires Noah to kill his family, channeling Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Don’t get me wrong. I really liked Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I thought he gave a fabulous performance. But when I think of prophets, I don’t think of wild-eyed crazies with butcher knives who are out to kill their children and any other hapless human beings who get in their way. Jack Nicholson is not the person who comes to mind when I’m casting a prophet of God.

So from what I’ve read of Noah, here’s what we’re supposed to believe:

  • The earth came about because of a generic entity known as the Creator (using the name God might offend someone).
  • Human beings are bad. The Creator must not have created people, because people are horrible creatures that eat animals and kill the planet and must be eradicated.
  • The flood came to punish mankind for being bad to the environment. (Gee, was there global warming in Noah’s time? Was there a Biblical Al Gore who stole the Babylonian Peace Prize from a Biblical Mother Teresa?)
  • God (oops, the Creator) tells prophets to kill all the people so animals can have the earth.
  • Rock people come out of the earth, ostensibly to help prophets kill people and help the animals.

By the way, until all the people can be killed off, virtuous people are supposed to be vegetarians. Sorry Texans. It’s time to turn off those barbecue grills, unless you’re grilling veggies.

Don’t you hate Hollywood? Sheesh. Only they could take a simple Bible story and turn it into a pot of politically-correct hash.

So we aren’t going to see Noah. I’m betting that after the opening weekend, nobody else will, either. And then the pea-brains in Hollywood will say they can’t make any other Biblical epics because nobody goes to see them.

Wrong, idiots! It’s because you don’t put God in them! Put God in your movies, and then see if people go to see them.

Fluffy and I are voting with our feet and not going to see Noah this year. Well, he’s voting with his feet and I’m voting with my cinderblocks that I call feet. Sorry, Hollywood. You’ve lost our lucrative one-movie-per-decade business.

But on second thought, maybe we are going to see two movies this decade. You see, Son of God is still playing in a theater near us. Fluffy and I need to show Hollywood that films like this — where the producers are believers and where God is more than an afterthought — deserve to be made. I think we are going to the movies this week.

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Mar 24 2014

Candles, Popcorn, and Thou

Published by Kathy under General

Let’s just say that our St. Patrick’s Day was not a riot of shamrocks this year.

I may be Alsatian rather than Irish, but I’ve always been partial to St. Patrick’s Day. No, I don’t run out and get soused on good old Irish whiskey. I don’t sing Irish songs, I don’t drink green beverages and I don’t even make an effort to wear green.

It’s the corned beef and cabbage I like. (Wouldn’t you know my celebration would center on food?) My dear Fluffy is not a beef-eater, but corned beef and cabbage is his one concession to beef-eating. He eats the vegetables that have been cooked with the beef, and leaves the beef to me.

We got up early on Saturday morning and went to our favorite grocery store, stocking up on carrots and cabbage and onions and corned beef. Not one to prolong the excitement, we decided to eat our St. Patrick’s Day meal for Sunday dinner rather than waiting for Monday.

After returning from church on Sunday, while I was busily sitting at the computer working on family history, Fluffy chopped the vegetables and put the corned beef and cabbage and everything else in the crockpot. We were on our way to a joyous feast.

Alas, we did not ask permission of the weatherman before we started our festivities. Suddenly it started snowing. Then the power started flickering. Then, right before dusk, the power went out.

We checked the crockpot. The corned beef was hot. There was juice, and it was boiling, but the vegetables were still raw, and there was no way the meal was edible. It would take hours more cooking before this dish would be ready to eat. This was not a happy development.

Without a computer to use or a book to read, I was semi-lost. I did what I could: I sat in front of the television. At least I could pretend I was watching reality TV.

But then a wonderful thing happened. Fluffy sat beside me. He put a blanket around us, and he put his arm around me. We talked, just like actual people. When dinnertime came, he brought us a sumptuous feast of crackers and cheese and popcorn, which we ate by candlelight. We talked some more. We had a delightful evening.

At 11:05 p.m., just as it was getting uncomfortably chilly in our powerless house, the power came back on. We were able to crawl in bed and spend a toasty warm night, unencumbered by the cares of the world, as the corned beef and cabbage merrily cooked in the kitchen.

We awoke to what Fluffy and I sincerely hope will be the last of (by actual count) 9,276 snowstorms of the season. This is what Fluffy posted on his Facebook page:

Another day, another 4-6 inches of albino manure to shovel. I am *SO* ready for spring!

I have to admit, it wasn’t the best way to start St. Patrick’s Day. At least we had power, so the house was warm. Plus we had a pot of corned beef that smelled delicious.

Fluffy spent the morning shoveling snow. It was heavy snow. There was a lot of it. He said there was about six inches. What was stacked up on the railing of our deck looked deeper than that to me. Other people in our ward said it was “six to ten” inches. I think they may have been closer to being right.

It was a revolting development in any case. Fluffy needed to clear the driveway because I had a doctor’s appointment later that day.

But then the revolting development became a little less revolting. The doctor’s office called to say all appointments had been cancelled, so that freed up our afternoon. Then a friend in the ward who comes over to give me brain exercises called to say the federal government was closed due to the snow, and her husband was on his way over with her. I alerted Fluffy, and our day was suddenly brighter.

I quickly finished my work for the day while Fluffy made a carrot cake, and then we shared our day and our food with friends, playing games and eating corned beef and cabbage and acting silly. What had promised to be yet another miserable snowstorm turned into a holiday we did not plan but will nevertheless treasure.

Who would have guessed when we awoke on Sunday morning that we would spend our Sunday evening eating crackers and cheese and popcorn by candlelight? It wasn’t on our agenda, but a lot of the best things in life are not the things we schedule in advance.

If we can throw our agendas aside at appropriate intervals and enjoy the surprises God gives us — whether the surprises are as small as popcorn by candlelight or as big as an unplanned year in a wheelchair — life is a lot more fulfilling than it is if we can’t adjust to changes in our schedules.

This life is like a roller coaster. We might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Mar 17 2014

Mind of the Beholder

Published by Kathy under General

Back when I was in the hospital, the nurses impressed on Fluffy how important it was for him to get me out of my wheelchair pronto. They said if I stayed in that chair, I would identify with being a cripple and I would soon think of myself as a helpless human being.

Fluffy took this counsel to heart. Unfortunately, the advice was hogwash. I never thought of the wheelchair as something that made me a cripple. On the contrary, the wheelchair was a piece of furniture. And when compared to the chairs at church, it was a comfortable piece of furniture. I had no interest whatsoever in getting out of it, when the alternative was those horrible church chairs.

Instead, I perfected a series of wheelchair moves as I waited for my legs to come back. I started doing wheelchair maneuvers, much the same as the wheelchair basketball players but without actually having to carry a basketball.

I really got good at it. I could back up or move laterally without benefit of my arms, using just a touch of my feet to the floor or even my legs to the side of the chair. This wasn’t a skill I could actually show off, but I secretly knew I had it. I had never been able to call myself an athlete, but I finally had a physical skill, albeit a tiny one, and I was pleased.

Eventually, however, my feet started telling me they were ready for just a little bit more. It was time for them to simulate walking, with the operative word being “simulate.”

Now when I walk down that church hallway on my walker, I finally know the meaning of the word “cripple” in a way I never knew it in a wheelchair. My right foot is a cinderblock that has no human feeling. My right leg does not have the strength to pick up that heavy right foot, so I stumble.

I think my right foot is secretly a drunkard roustabout that has no intention whatsoever of following the Word of Wisdom. It probably smokes tiny little cigarettes, too, but I haven’t caught it yet.

Despite my daily upper-body exercises, my right arm and shoulder do not have the strength to hold up my body on that side the way the left side does. That right side tends to collapse like an accordion as I walk down the hall, so that I stand straighter on the left than on the right. When I was in the wheelchair I didn’t even know the right side was weaker. Now that I’m walking, the weakness is inescapable.

I truly now feel like a cripple. Bummer.

Now that I’m using the walker in church, everyone seems to think I have taken great strides toward my recovery. They congratulate me as though I have run a marathon or placed in a swimming competition, but I feel like anything but a champion. On the contrary, I feel like Igor from the Frankenstein movies, all hunched over on one side and barely making it from one destination to another.

I never felt like Igor when I was in a wheelchair.

Looking at me from the outside, the world thinks I have made great improvements now that I am standing on my own two feet. From my inner perspective, I feel as though I have gone leaps and bounds backwards. After all, when I was sitting in the chair, I was an athlete (albeit in my own mind).

I was not bent over sideways. I did not have a cinderblock foot. I was not scouring the village, looking for brains for science experiments.

Oh, the joys of progress.

But if this is the price of walking again, I’m gladly paying the admission fee. After all, we signed up for this life with all its experiences — the good ones, the bad ones, and the really nasty ones. Walking like Igor is an experience I never actually wanted, but if it’s on my life’s menu, bring it on. God must have decided I needed it, and if that’s what He thinks, it’s good enough for me. Until then, please keep any extra brains safely under lock and key.

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Mar 10 2014

Useless Things of Beauty

Published by Kathy under General

As the time came for me to start using a walker rather than a wheelchair at church, I looked on Amazon for a walker that would suit my needs. I had owned two walkers in the past, both of which were things of beauty, and both of which had met tragic ends on cruise ships. I wanted another walker just like them.

I found a great deal for a similar walker on Amazon, and it seemed to be just for me. I eyed it for a month or two, and one day the price plummeted. Normally a $123 item, it was suddenly being listed for the incredible price of $73. I could hardly believe my luck, so I immediately snapped it up. Immediately after I did so, the price went up again. Apparently there was just one for sale at that price, and I got it.

If there were a prom queen of walkers, this would be it.

I loved the color. I loved the little wire basket that could carry my treasures. I loved the foam back I could lean against when I was sitting on the padded seat. This was a sweet unit. But I especially loved the color. Have I mentioned before that I am completely helpless when it comes to colors? This is true. If something is a pretty color, that seems to be the primary consideration as far as I’m concerned.

I am a shallow person.

So the walker arrived, and I took it for a test drive around the house. It was a total disaster. I had thought I was ready to stagger around the house with the benefit of a walker, but apparently I was premature. That walker slid around sideways like crazy. It took most of my energy just keeping the walker moving in a straight line in front of me. Obviously I had never used a walker on hardwood floors.

I took the walker to church on Sunday, and things were marginally better. The walker did not zip out from under me on that industrial carpet, and with great difficulty I was able to navigate the great lengths of the hallway. It was the hardest thing in the whole, wide world.

I felt like Columbus, Magellan, Joseph Smith, and the Apostle Paul, all rolled into one, but I still looked like Kathy so nobody treated me like a hero. Nobody except for Fluffy, and Marcia, my ex-visiting teacher. Marcia and Fluffy are the two world’s best cheerleaders. They both cheered me on even when I wanted to punch them in their cheery little faces.

Did I say using that walker was hard?

Then one day Fluffy pulled out the old-lady-style walker that was given to me in the hospital and replaced the front legs with a set of wheel attachments that had also been provided with it. I had no idea why he was doing it. That walker was bug-ugly. There wasn’t a prayer I was going to use that thing.

But just to humor him, I walked with it across the floor of our living-room-turned-bedroom. Holy cow! That thing had integrity. With the other walker, I had been using half my energy to walk and the other half of my energy to keep the walker upright. I didn’t even know that until suddenly I was able to devote all my energy to the task of walking.

I had been flirting with the beautiful prom queen walker and leaving the bug-ugly-battleship-gray Eleanor Roosevelt walker alone in the corner.

Eleanor Roosevelt, my old lady walker.

Bravely I said to Fluffy that the following day I was going to put the wheelchair away and use the walker in our house all day long. I knew this would not be easy. It would involve all sorts of nasty transfers into real chairs, some of which had wheels on them without brakes to keep them from rolling. These things were going to scare me to death, but progress is progress. I was up for the task.

But alas, I am still Kathy. That walker was ugly. So I sat in the bathroom, washing my hair and wondering if we could get some spray paint at Lowe’s that would turn the walker purple or teal or Kelly green or some color that was not gray. What a dipwhistle I am!

I am such a dipwhistle that for one brief moment I even wondered if I should just go back to using that other walker — you know, the pretty one. The dangerous one. But I knew I couldn’t. As pretty as it was, that walker just didn’t have the structural integrity to keep me walking upright.

So I used Eleanor Roosevelt for a whole day, and then a day after that. I zoomed around the house on Eleanor Roosevelt like a kid on a tricycle. I looked forward to using her on Sunday. I envisioned flying through church like an almost-well human being, impressing everyone to pieces and signaling the beginning of a brand-new life.

At the same time, I wondered how I could dress up Eleanor Roosevelt with colored tape or stickers or other bright and shiny decorations. It wasn’t going to happen. Eleanor Roosevelt was doomed to look like Eleanor Roosevelt, and I knew it. But boy, could she fly on our hardwood floors!

We got to church on Sunday, and I practically leapt out of the car, ready to show the world the new Kathy. Alas, there was no new Kathy. By the time we got into the building, I was bent over like an old lady on an old lady’s walker, tired and miserable just as I had been the week before.

And then, with the drag of the church carpet instead of our hardwood floors, things were not as happy as they had been at home. I was worn out from the rigors of the parking lot, and the carpet grabbed me. Alas, I no longer had a seat on my walker that allowed me to sit down and rest. Once I was walking, all I could do was plod toward the chapel, which seemed to get farther and farther away.

Once again, by the time we got into the chapel, I felt like Columbus, Magellan, Joseph Smith, and the Apostle Paul, all rolled into one, but I still looked like Kathy so nobody treated me like a hero. Nobody except for Fluffy, that is. And Marcia, my ex-visiting teacher. Only they had even the slightest idea that I wanted to give up and go home crawl in bed and lie there in the fetal position and cry.

But things had been better. Things had been a whole lot better than they had been the week before. And they continued to be better throughout the day.

Eleanor Roosevelt may have been ugly, but she was a smashing success. I know that with her as my trusty companion, I will one day be able to walk the terrible distance from the car to our seat in the chapel without feeling like I have trudged to the far end of the world. It is sturdy Eleanor Roosevelt, not the beautiful red walker I so admired, that will carry me to the next step in my healing adventure.

I have learned a lot of lessons during the past year. Eleanor Roosevelt has taught me, once again, not to look for the flashy beauties that promise everything but do not deliver on their promises. Often it is the quiet ones that are overlooked in the corner that are the ones who can take you wherever you want to go.

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